The report that Comcast has been discussing a deal to buy 51% of NBC Universal is good news for bloggers and podcasters.It is evidence that a company with wires into hundreds of thousands of households sees the future online. Comcast saw its broadband sign ups last quarter nearly double from a year ago as people turn to the Internet for more and more of their information and entertainment.
You might argue that getting a lock on NBC programming is a defensive move. Even though the network’s audience has been shrinking ever since Seinfeld had his last cup of coffee at Monk’s Cafe (aka Tom’s Restaurant in real life), NBC shows attract millions of viewers a night. Consider like ‘30 Rock’ and ‘Trauma’ as loss leaders to build foot traffic for Comcast’s other programming, its owned cable channels. They include the Golf Channel, E!, and lots of sports. NBC, on the other hand has cable, too, including Bravo, CNBC, and USA Networks. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.)
A few decades ago, the Big Three networks owned it all. Now, cable channels targeting cooks, gardeners, gays, farmers, and gamers are vacuuming up advertising dollars. And, soon, the Internet. In the UK, Net advertising already eclipses TV ad dollars.
While the average TV household watches ‘only’ 17 of the several hundred channels available, that's 500% more than when there were just NBC, ABC, and CBS. The growth has come from special interest programming.
And what is online audio and video? Nothing but special interest programming. You offer me high-protein programming about Macintoshes, digital photography, and start-up investing opportunities, and I’m there. Goodbye CBS shows or, at least, get me a DVR that records three shows at the same time for later viewing.
The point is that there are more than 125,000 podcasts available on iTunes. Many could be aggregated into special interest channels, and programmed into a 24/7 wheel of audio or video.
If Comcast or any cable company is going to grow, the challenge it faces is to bring more people into the tent at the same time that those people have more narrow interests in content.
I think Comcast is recognizing that tomorrow’s cable channels are today's Netcasts. By adding NBC’s mass appeal programming and niche channels, the number one cable company’s strategy is to grow its subscriber numbers by constantly promoting of its ‘old’ cable channels and to fertilize the green shoots of a thousand more 'new' flowering programmers.