By Troy Dreier
Business Insider livened up a slow summer Friday with the story that Comcast is preparing an online video platform with the amusingly poor name of Watchable (Would you eat at a restaurant called Edible?). According to the report, which is so breathless and credulous that it seems to have been dictated by Comcast PR, Watchable will rival YouTube and Google.
That sounds pretty serious. How will Comcast pull this off? By licensing non-exclusive content from Vox and Buzzfeed (which Comcast recently invested in), as well as AwesomenessTV, Refinery 29, The Onion, Mic, Vice, and NBC Sports. Pretty exciting. Maybe YouTube and Facebook should just give up right now.
And how will viewers get this exciting nonexclusive content from platforms they probably haven’t heard of? They’ll stream it through their Xfinity X1 boxes. At some time in the future they’ll also be able to stream it to their iOS and Android portable devices. Note that not all Comcast cable TV subscribers have X1 boxes: According to Business Insider, Comcast will switch out its subscriber’s boxes for X1 boxes “over the next few years.” By 2017, Watchable will be available in tens of millions of homes.
Once that happens, Comcast plans to rake in the green. Business Insider says that “publishers seem interested” in Watchable because it lets online-only brands get in front of TV viewers and “it’s a potential big new revenue stream.” Watchable will be a cheap for Comcast to operate, the article says, because it won’t have to pay licensing revenue to partners.
The article ends by saying Comcast declined to comment on the story. Did it really?
Watchable is clearly a sad non-starter from a cable company desperately trying to adapt to the preferences of online video viewers. It’s a sad idea and it’s sad to see tech news sites—such as Engadget, which calls it a “YouTube rival”—giving it so much credence. Watchable shows that Comcast execs still don’t understand streaming video’s appeal. Look for Watchable to sink like a stone.