MSO Content Innovation Award

Film Festival Collective

Presented by Xfinity

Comcast Cable

 

You hear it at parties and other settings:  ‘I have 500 channels but there’s nothing on TV.’ While discerning viewers know this is untrue, the 9 million+ Xfinity customers in Comcast’s Central Division have even less reason to utter that phrase.

In May 2014, the division inaugurated The Film Festival Collective Presented by Xfinity, a free, regional Video on Demand (VOD) offering featuring short films from a variety of genres that have been screened or will be at film festivals across the eastern U.S.

The effort began in Comcast’s Atlanta market, with about one million customers. Appropriately, Atlanta plays a large role. The Atlanta Film Festival is one of the MSO’s partners on the project and curates the shorts to place in the VOD queue. It also acts as Comcast’s agent, approaching other festivals to get them involved in the Collective.

It’s no accident that the Collective offers shorts instead of feature-length films. “We took into consideration the average viewing time of on-demand content,” says Walker Anderson, senior manager, sales and marketing, Comcast NBCU. Short films are under-served in that arena, he adds.

The concept itself isn’t a coincidence either. Not meant as “a big competitive play,” the Collective emphasizes Comcast’s ability to program locally and “be distinctive,” Anderson notes. The idea to create the Collective “was a recognition of the seemingly overlapping opportunities, resourcefulness and relationships to arrive at this little ecosystem of content that would be valuable to our customers.”

The response has been encouraging. “Many people who have watched have never seen a short film or been to these festivals,” Anderson says. Viewership is growing an average of 20% per month, topping 9K in February. While Comcast won’t divulge specifics, Anderson hints the brief duration of shorts leads to “multiple views of diverse content,” aka viewers are binging on shorts.

The Collective’s film roster is updated regularly as a string of East Coast film festivals also are collaborating with Xfinity on the project. In SD and HD, the films generally remain available for two months; 12-20 titles are uploaded each month, with an emphasis on shorts from festivals currently underway. For example, if a festival is occurring in July, shorts from it will be highlighted that month.

In addition to the Atlanta Film Festival, participating festivals include: Charleston International Film Festival, Homespun Series (Atlanta), Indie Grits Film Festival (Columbia, S.C.) and several others.

While the festivals are East Coast-based, the films are wide in origin. “This unique brand of programming… has included more than 120 short films, highlighting the work of regional, national and international filmmakers,” says Alex Horwitz, VP of Public Relations for Comcast’s South Region.

In addition to seeking partner festivals, Anderson says Comcast is looking to expand the content mix. So, for example, in addition to shorts, viewers might be able to watch programs about shorts, such as interview shows. “We will try” new content and “see how it does,” he says.

While Comcast has yet to make an announcement, it seems a good bet that if the Collective continues to prove successful other regions will create similar programs throughout Comcast’s footprint.

–          Seth Arenstein

–          Fast Facts

–  Comcast’s Central Division is composed of XFINITY customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

–  Subs can access Film Festival Collective content using voice commands by saying “Festival Collective” to their X1 remote app and voice guide remote.

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