The field for nationwide OTT offers is getting quite crowded, and it may one day include Comcast. A report from Bloomberg Business cites recent negotiations by Comcast to secure nationwide OTT rights from several programmers.
The move appears to be a hedge for now for the nation’s largest wireline provider of traditional pay-TV services. An OTT offer from Comcast does not appear imminent or even in the near future. But conditions could change quickly, and Comcast wants to be ready.
There are currently four providers of nationwide OTT services that are viable replacements for traditional pay-TV service. They include DISH’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW, and fuboTV (whose investors include 21st Century Fox). Those four will soon be joined by Google’s YouTube TV, and Hulu. They’ve come to be known as virtual multichannel video programming distributors, or vMVPDs.
All of these Internet-delivered services offer traditional channel line-ups (some skinny, some not), VoD, and mobile access, generally at lower pricing than the traditional pay-TV bundle. Many also offer cloud DVR, or will soon.
Comcast continues to perform well with traditional video in the face of this growing OTT competitive threat. They actually added 161K video subscribers in 2016. In the Bloomberg article, author Gerry Smith cites comments from Matt Strauss, Comcast’s executive vice president for video services, who says the largest cable MSO still sees more profitable opportunities coming from growing their traditional pay-TV service in existing markets than from launching an OTT service. Smith seems to suggest the opportunity cost for OTT is still too high, at least for Comcast.
But the digital media winds shift quickly and should vMVPDs start to gain real traction, one would think Comcast won’t have a choice but to enter that realm as well. With these OTT rights, they could move quickly.