Remember “Watchable?” Yeah, nobody else does either. And so it is not at all surprising that sources now report Comcast is pulling resources away from the two-year-old venture, scrapping its original content dreams and looking elsewhere for eyeballs.
Three sources tell Digiday that Comcast is cutting off Watchable’s funding for content.
“They are shutting down the originals part of Watchable,” a content partner told Digiday. “It sounds like, for now, it will remain as an ad-supported platform for the distribution partnerships they already have.”
At launch, Comcast integrated Watchable into its X1 platform for its cable customers, but also made the streaming service available to anyone via Watchable.com or a dedicated iOS app.
Watchable’s “originals” are a far cry from Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu-style original prestige drama series. Instead, the service is yet another showcase for internet brands, like BuzzFeed, Vox, and Refinery29.
Comcast confirmed to Digiday that it’s no longer emphasizing original content on Watchable, but added that it hasn’t yet decided whether or not to scrap the app and brand entirely or not.
“We are taking our learnings, among others, and shifting the strategy for Watchable to focus on integrating the content within our Xfinity TV platforms, notably X1 where we saw the greatest amount of engagement and organic discovery,” a Comcast exec told Digiday.
Translated back out of corporate jargonese and put into English, that says that more folks saw Watchable content on their cable boxes than did on the app or website, even though it’s a streaming platform.
One content partner told Digiday that its videos were seeing fewer than 5,000 viewers per month on Watchable over the summer, which is incredibly low. Individual, rising content creators not backed by major Comcast/NBCUniversal money often manage to reach tens of thousands of viewers per video in a month on YouTube, for comparison.
According to data Digiday gathered from comScore, Watchable’s site has never reached more than 416,000 unique visitors in a month, and in July the site and app together reached fewer than 300,000 visitors — a vanishingly small number compared to the tens or hundreds of millions that media entities like BuzzFeed bring in monthly on their own sites.
Digiday draws a parallel from Watchable to Verizon’s similar Go90 service, which is not at all a good sign for Comcast.
The partners who created content for Go90 called it a “huge dud.” Sources have repeatedly said the company has overpaid for content that then nobody watched. Verizon tried one last-ditch “3.0 reboot” of the service in March… and we’ve heard basically nothing about it since.