Not long ago, reports surfaced that Comcast had a YouTube-like service under development. According to The Information and some speculative analysis, the giant MSO is planning a new video service with short-form content designed to be delivered right alongside traditional TV service on a cable set-top box.
The rumors, however, appear to have been overstated. Multiple sources have told us that there isn't anything imminent in Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s video product plans. While the cable company has explored creating its own YouTube Inc. service, it doesn't appear -- at least at the moment -- to be interested in competing head to head with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
Comcast certainly has a lot on its plate right now. Between the proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and the continued rollout of Xfinity cloud-based services, the cable operator has a long operational to-do list.
Yet those same activities that are keeping Comcast busy today are also preparing it for a future where launching a short-form Web video service could make a lot of sense. The expanded footprint of a combined Comcast/TWC entity would give the bigger company greater scale to compete with YouTube nationally. Plus, Comcast's cloud-based infrastructure will make it more feasible for the company to store and deliver a wider range of content. (See Comcast Strikes $45B Deal for TWC and Comcast Launches Cloud DVR.)
Then there's the company's most recent acquisition of FreeWheel Media Inc. The online ad-serving company would give Comcast an easy way to monetize its own Web video content if it should choose to launch a YouTube competitor. (See Comcast Spins Wheel for FreeWheel.)
It's also worth noting that Comcast already delivers a significant amount of short-form and long-form video programming through cable set-tops and on the Web that doesn't fall under the category of traditional TV fare. Such Comcast offerings as the Karaoke channel, Sportskool, and the Reelz Channel all start to overlap with the type of content that YouTube now serves up online.
The bottom line is that while Comcast may not have a YouTube competitor in its bag of tricks today, it is well-equipped to package one up and bring it to market if the financials make sense in the future. It all comes down to the company's priorities.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading