Comcast Launches Stand-Alone Streaming Service Watchable

Comcast Watchable - H 2015
Courtesy of Comcast

The ad-supported service will offer up content from Maker Studios, AwesomenessTV, BuzzFeed, Vice and more.

Comcast is entering the streaming video game with Watchable, a new stand-alone service that will offer up ad-supported video from more than 30 different digital producers. 

Watchable, which is available on television, mobile and desktop screens, launched in beta on Tuesday morning with shortform content from AwesomenessTV, BuzzFeed, Vice Media and Scripps Networks, among others. Initially, the service is being supported on iOS devices, at and users of Comcast's online streaming platform, X1

"We think Watchable can be a unique place that curates and distributes the best content from some of the most recognized brands and producers on the web," writes Comcast chief business development officer Sam Schwartz. "Plus many of our Watchable partners have not traditionally had distribution on the TV, and we can give them a path to reach new audiences and further monetize their content on the biggest screen in the home." 

Watchable is the latest in a string of stand-alone streaming services from media giants looking to capitalize on the large audiences that have amassed for digital brands on YouTube and online platforms. Dish led the way last winter with the launch of SlingTV, a subscription-based streaming offering with a mix of live and VOD content from TV networks and shortform producers. 

Now, there's a wave of ad-supported services launching. On Sept. 24, Verizon threw a glitzy party in Beverly Hills to celebrate the upcoming launch of its free video streaming app, go90, where top digital executives including Maker Studios CEO Ynon Kreiz and ATV chief Brian Robbins mixed with stars like Zoe Saldana and Kanye West, who gave a surprise performance. 

Go90 has struck a series of rich deals with shortform content creators to offer exclusive content and libraries of clips to go90 viewers and the consensus among digital industry executives is that the telecom giant has been a good partner as it tries to understand the growing web video space. The service will also include a small selection of TV-length content.

Comcast — which recently invested $200 million each in BuzzFeed and Vox Media through NBCUniversal — doesn't appear to have struck exclusive content deals for Watchable, which could hurt the service in an increasingly competitive online video landscape where viewers already are choosing between YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and Vessel to watch content from their favorite creators. 

For Comcast, entering the streaming video space is about grabbing a piece of the growing online advertising pie and is meant to help the cable giant hold onto customers who might consider cutting the cord. "The web has changed the way we all think about video," writes Schwartz. "We want to continue to connect creators of compelling content with viewers who want to be entertained, and have been experimenting with new partnerships to deliver more high-quality videos from the web, especially to the television."