The sprint into OTT by major media companies shows no signs of slowing down. Watchable, Comcast’s over-the-top venture targeted at millennials, has now expanded its content focus to include exclusive titles, nine in total from publishers like Refinery29, Cut, Buzzfeed, and MiTu. Starting today, Watchable will feature three new series — “Ballin’ on a Budget” (Refinery29), “Cholos Try” (mitú), and “How to Human” (Cut). The remaining slate, which includes two additional shows from Cut, will roll out in the coming months.
But the move is not one that Comcast is taking lightly, according to Craig Parks, Vice President, Programming for Watchable, who tells VideoInk that the decision on which titles to acquire and the formats of those titles was cautiously decided upon. “We didn’t look at formats in the same way. We really wanted to let the story lead and the format follow,” he added.
“How to Human,” Parks cites as an example, is a partly-scripted series from Cut.com that has a consistent character and through-line but isn’t narrative driven; it can be watched linearly or by single video in any order.
Mike Gaston, the founder of Cut, is particularly excited about the deal with Comcast’s Watchable. “It’s so rare to work with a distributor that gets it,” he said, noting that the Watchable team was fairly hands off on the process and allowed the Cut team to have creative agency to play with unique formats.
And when looking at the full slate (listed below), it starts to become apparent that Watchable, which is available on the Comcast X1 and desktop and mobile apps, took a measured, but broad approach to their programming decisions. One source in the industry notes that the Watchable team has been less aggressive than other programmers like Verizon, in terms of budgets and appetite for IP.
Parks would claim that this has also been intentional. “We feel there’s an audience being underserved,” he said, “and while the Netflix and Hulu’s can do what they do very well, we’re not looking to go that route.” For this reason, Watchable has approached the deals as any traditional distributor — licensing rights for IP from production shops for exclusive first windows, rather than producing “originals.”
“We were very selective on the language. We chose to make these ‘exclusives’ rather than ‘originals’ because we are a distributor first,” Parks added. It’s a nuance that sets Watchable apart, but not by much. When the business first launched last year, the company entered the market with a slate of syndicated programming from a who’s who of digital players. The shift to include exclusive programming now takes Watchable into the competitive set with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and various other verticalized, niche and broad, subscription platforms.
With so many players in the space, it’s a mystery who can and will take the lead with viewership. But with Comcast’s network deals, and ability to stream over-the-top, it has a stronger chance of breaking through with Watchable. According to a blog post, Watchable has already seen a month over month increase of 40% in mobile viewing, finding that the average viewer is staying longer than 30 minutes.
Comcast Watchable’s Exclusive Series include:
- Ballin’ on a Budget, Refinery29: Leading digital media company for women, Refinery29, continues its run of creating beloved content for the millennial set with Ballin on a Budget, which follows comedienne and rapper Awkwafina as she takes to the streets of New York to show viewers how to live the high life on a low budget — such as a day at the spa with little to no cash, or planning a fun first date that costs nothing.
- Cholos Try, mitú: mitú is the only digital-first media company targeting young Latinos, America’s fastest growing demographic. mitú creates unapologetically Latino content with universal appeal, evidenced by their wildly popular online series Cholos Try, which generated over 100 million views, making “cholos” a household name. Watchable will be the exclusive home for the new, long-form Cholos Try, a bold, brash, and brutally honest series following 4 cholos from East L.A who go out of their comfort zone and immerse themselves in cultures and lifestyles across America. They’ll share their unique point of view on everything from a Renaissance Faire to ghost hunting, high fashion to Alaskan outdoor living. Cholos Try breaks down stereotypes, challenges what it means to be different and shows what is possible when you try new things with honesty and a sense of humor.
- How To Human, Cut.com: Though there are no road signs in life, there are ways to avoid taking a wrong turn. How to Human takes an irreverent look into the many ways we can improve our lives. Part how-to, part scripted comedy, this series follows the ups and downs (mostly downs) of a young woman learning the true meaning of “failing forward.”
- Knock Knock, POPSUGAR: Fashion designer Rachel Antonoff has cult status with the POPSUGAR audience and is now bringing a brand new series to Watchable. In Knock Knock, Rachel takes us inside the homes, offices, dressing rooms, and other intimate spaces of the people who fascinate us — including Saturday Night Live star Aidy Bryant, TV’s most popular veterinarian Dr. Jan Pol, and iconic designer Lisa Frank — and gets the stories behind the personal objects they cherish most.
- I Want My Phone Back, CollegeHumor: In this on-the-street game show series from CollegeHumor, host Alana Johnston and a cast of improvisers take to the streets of Los Angeles to see if contestants will put their mobile devices in the hands of total strangers, for up to $1,000. Alana and her cohorts can log into contestants’ social media, taking every liberty as they post, text, and call to their hearts’ desire in an effort to wreak complete havoc on their marks. The longer contestants stay in the game, the more money they stand to make.
- 100 Years of Beauty: How-To, Cut.com: Based off the already successful YouTube series, this show offers a new how-to makeup and hairstyling series that teaches viewers how to create contemporary looks inspired by celebrated historical figures such as Frida Kahlo, Billie Holiday, and Imelda Marcos.
- LOGAN PAUL VS, Studio71: Studio71 is bringing social media superstar Logan Paul to Watchable in a new series where he bravely takes on potential life-threatening challenges including wrestling a bear, Navy Seal training, bull riding, wilderness survival, and more.
- Would You Rather, Cut.com: Which of two difficult choices would you choose if you had to? Narcolepsy or Insomnia? Being raised Muslim or Mormon? Surviving an AI uprising or a Zombie Apocalypse? This series explores thought-provoking dichotomies ranging from the realistically controversial to the hilariously hypothetical. Experts from relevant fields offer their unique perspectives to help viewers decide.
- Am I Doing This Right?, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures: BuzzFeed’s rising star and comedienne Kelsey Darragh will bring a new series to Watchable where she takes on the art of “adulting” or as previous generations called it, growing up.