The Six Companies Taking on YouTube: Comcast

/ Jul 25, 2014


Sources familiar with Comcast’s plans for a YouTube-like video service say that the working title for it is either Channel Finder or Channel Store. We’ll call it Channel Finder for this exercise. The service, which will be available as an app on the cable company’s internet-connected X1 set-top box, will allow creators to directly upload and distribute video content.

The company confirmed these plans recently, saying it hopes to launch the service by the end of the year.

With the backing of a cable and media powerhouse like Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal), Channel Finder seems like a compelling draw for anyone looking beyond YouTube for ancillary revenue.

But Comcast isn’t interested in allowing just anybody to use its new service.

Like Yahoo, the idea is to bring in professional producers — from YouTube talent to digital studios and networks — to distribute their content on the company’s set-top box. For selected creators, here’s an opportunity to directly show up on the biggest screen in the house.

But will audiences follow? Much has been made about how younger people do not differentiate between online and TV content. But when most of these viewers are already used to watching Grace Helbig videos on their computer or mobile devices, why would they then try to do the same via their parent’s set-top? If it’s the same content, why change what’s already working?

The opportunity for Comcast is to build something that entices younger demos to access the app. And not just by curating “cool” content that they would want to watch, if Comcast can build an experience that makes videos of their favorite stars easier to watch, and wraps a community feature around all of that, then it could have a compelling product.

For Comcast, the app is also a tacit recognition of shifting video-consumption habits, especially among the next generation of consumers. TV is still king. But Comcast understands that in a fragmented media environment, viewers are increasingly seeking out niche content. And the kids? They are not as attached to traditional pay-TV services as their parents are.

What will be interesting to see is how the Channel Finder app is positioned next to apps from other streaming providers as well as the traditional TV channels. Because it’s a product owned by Comcast, would it be prioritized in some way above other platforms?

Comcast’s SVP of video Matt Strauss said the company will test out the service later this year.

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