There is a good article in the WSJ today about Comcast and their strategy to develop new cable channels. CEO Brian Roberts says “that some of his biggest regrets involve forgone chances many years ago to take stakes in CNN and the Discovery Channel at bargain prices. ”
Amy Banse runs their property investment arm. The lawyer-by-training sees 200 pitches a year and usually greenlights one or two for investments a year. What she looks for is “passionate management, a clearly defined niche that isn’t being served and affordable programming.”
Comcast owes varying stakes in E!, Style, and The Golf Channel. What gives their investments a leg up is their guaranteed 21.4 million subscribers. That leverage also gives them more favorable terms in equity purchases.
Here are a couple of my thoughts. Narrowcasting is going to continue to gain strength. You only need one show to put you on the map – think Queer Eye for Bravo, Emeril for the Food Network, and Trading Spaces for TLC. Or the right niche – my father-in-law can’t get enough of the Golf Channel.
I think developing afforable content creates great synergy with their existing cable properties. The article quotes the estimated value of The Golf Channel has doubled to $1.5 billion in the last four years. I would say they are on the right track.