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The New Video Playbook: Be Everywhere

Jeff Baumgartner

Traditional programmers that have lived in the super-controlled world of pay-TV for years and a newer mix of digital-focused channels that got their start in the wilds of the Internet have a lot more in common than ever before: they want to be accessible everywhere the viewer is.

And that desire/need has forever altered the distribution model of both sides.

After focusing on carriage deals with cable operators, satellite TV and telco TV providers, older media companies such as Disney are doubling down on OTT and preparing to launch direct-to-consumer offerings that not only compete with the likes of Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), but help them hedge their bets as the pay-TV industry struggles to gain and retain subscribers.

On the other end, subscription-based and ad-supported video services that began life as OTT offerings are increasingly seeing the added benefits of distribution deals with MVPDs.

Some prime examples there include CuriosityStream, the subscription VOD service created by Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) founder John Hendricks, and Cheddar, the business and technology news service that's focused on the youngs. (See CuriosityStream Expands Its OTT Video Model .)

Cheddar's work with MVPDs took a big step forward last week through a tighter integration on Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s X1 platform, which Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg highlighted last week on Twitter:

Cheddar now appears in the networks section alongside other channels, as well is in the platform's on-demand area and in X1's News section, which curates content from multiple sources based on news topics.

Cheddar, which is also integrated with X1's search system (including the X1 voice remote), will also be listed soon as a streaming channel alongside others that currently include Ride TV, The Reading Corner, Xive TV, Daily Burn and Magellan TV, among others. The Cheddar "page" on X1 features both access to Cheddar's live feed as well as VoD access to the programmer's original series.

Though it's still coming to X1 boxes as an Internet-delivered stream, this "2.0" tie-up makes Cheddar's live feed natively integrated with Comcast's platform, Daniel Schneider, Cheddar's VP of business development, said.

The integration also builds on Cheddar's broader distribution strategy. After starting with an hour a day about the time Facebook Live came out, Cheddar has since become a full-time network, and recently launched a second one called Cheddar Big News.

Cheddar's been busy complementing its direct-to-consumer access with distribution deals with both traditional and OTT-delivered pay-TV providers. In addition to Comcast (Comcast Ventures is a Cheddar investor), other partners include Altice USA , Philo , WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) , Sling TV , and YouTube TV, along with a pact with the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) , a group that represents hundreds of independent cable operators.

"The goal is to get Cheddar everywhere," Schneider said of the news programmer's distribution strategy.

The evolution on the distribution side also plays into Cheddar's evolution as a news service.

"Traditional distributors have started to think about Cheddar as... a network, an actual channel just like other channels," Schneider said. "It's not necessarily some digital-only channel. We think of Cheddar as a network; we don't think of it as a digital network."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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8/31/2018 | 1:59:39 PM
Re: Continued disaggregation
It's interesting how this has grown. Soon we'll all be back to cable. I know some cut the cable, then returned because of the way direct-to consumer streaming was handled. There was little cost savings and lot more headache.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
8/29/2018 | 11:42:04 PM
Continued disaggregation
These deals and maneuvers only make sense. Netflix, for example, is essentially little different than a cable channel like HBO or Disney -- except that it makes its money directly from consumers instead of getting bundle-sold through a cable-company intermediary. We are going to continue to see more disaggregation in this space -- even as cable companies fight to keep some sort of loose connection between various content providers.
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