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Comcast on Tuesday announced the beta launch of Watchable, an app for professional short-form content, as it makes a play for a piece of digital advertising.
The service — an app and a stand-alone website, plus a tab on Comcast's X1 set-top box — will launch with about 30 online network partners, including Buzzfeed, Vox, Vice, Machinima, GoPro and Maker Studios.
Since Comcast believes that consumers will be spending a lot of time watching that kind of professional digital video, the service gives them an easy way to watch on their giant TVs. The move also makes it less likely that customers will cut the cord, and it gives Comcast a piece of the ad revenue. (There are now about 10 million X1 boxes in homes, and it's rolling out to 30,000 more daily.)
Watchable is also designed to be a win for the content companies, which Comcast points out haven't been easily accessible on the living room's big screen.
The cable and broadband giant says that while YouTube, Vimeo and increasingly Facebook are clearinghouses for all digital content — professional and amateur — this service is different in that it focuses entirely on professional short-form videos.
And in contrast to the likes of Hulu or Netflix, which rely a lot on repurposed TV, this will specifically be the best of the Web. Comcast will share sharing the ad revenue with content creators. The company isn't saying what the split is, but it would make sense for Comcast to offer more favorable terms than YouTube, which keeps about half its ad revenue.
This app comes as Comcast's business becomes less about selling bundles of TV channels and more about selling broadband access. And it shows that the owner of NBCUniversal is looking to the next advertising gold mine, as digital video ads are projected to surpass TV ads.
The competition for digital video ads is fierce. On Monday, Facebook enabled marketers to purchase ads with the metrics of television. And Google introduced new targeting tools for its ads. Comcast has targeting capability, too, through the data gathered from its set-top boxes. We'll see whether the measurement and metrics Comcast delivers to marketers can compete with what the likes of Facebook and YouTube provide.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.