Skip to main content

LOS ANGELES (TheStreet) -- With fists full of dollars, Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report CEO Brian Roberts is said to be chasing new media companies with the intent to grab a piece of TV's future before it's too late.

The nation's largest cable company has had talks with Buzzfeed, Vice and Business Insider on possible deals, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The revelation comes just as Comcast reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday, dampened slightly by results at its broadcast and cable networks -- exactly the place where Millennials have left Comcast and other network owners are seeking remedies. 

Buzzfeed and Vice have piqued interest among large media conglomerates, notably for their ability to produce short-form video that can be easily viewed on mobile devices and shared on social media. They also carry a strong cachet with younger viewers for their cheeky, brash and unbuttoned video journalism.

Comcast's shares were slipping in afternoon trading, falling 0.2% to $62.35 and trimming its 2015 advance to 7.5%, which is still well above the S&P 500 that has gained 1.2% this year. Roberts' apparent pursuit of new media companies demonstrates that Comcast wants to aggressively court Millennials, who are leaving real-time programming, or linear TV, behind for online streaming.

Comcast has yet to rollout its own over-the-top streaming service.

"Actions taken to improve performance across NBCUniversal could yield larger than forecast improvements in profitability," MoffettNathanson said in a research note on the company. 

More than any other demographic, the 18-24 age group has cut the hours they watch TV each week by 32% over the past five years, according to Nielsen. That's followed by a 23% decrease for 25-34 and 10% for 35-49.

Meanwhile, streaming services like Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. Report and Hulu -- a joint venture between Comcast, 21st Century Fox (FOXA) - Get Fox Corporation Class A Report and Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report -- have become preferred TV watching venue for those consumers that advertisers covet. According to an Ipsos Media CT survey, Netflix has become the most popular network to watch TV for ages 13-49. Among those 18-34, Hulu -- was second and NBCUniversal cable network USA ninth and legacy broadcaster NBC 10th.

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

These age groups comprise a key demographic that TV networks can base their ad rates on. It's an issue that has gripped the industry as a whole, as viewers shifts online where advertising is less lucrative.

"TV is really being unbundled and rebuilt," said Gabrielle Rossetti, the director of strategy and innovation at Havas Media, in addressing the rise of new media companies like Buzzfeed, Vice and Verizon's (VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report AOL.

"What we saw from these different ad-supported content providers is that they're creating metrics that can really translate their spend into digital," Rossetti said after the upfront sales pitch to media buyers that occurred in May.

But any deal with Buzzfeed, Vice, Business Insider or Comcast upping its own 14% stake in Vox Media would prove complicated.

Amazon (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report CEO Jeff Bezos, who has launched a budding TV and film studio at the online retailer, is an investor in Business Insider. Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox has a stake in Vice, as well as A+E Networks, which is owned by Disney and Hearst.

Vice, which licenses its programming to TV networks like Time Warner's (TWX) HBO and recently struck a mobile video content deal with Verizon, could be the most sensible and lucrative fit for Comcast.

Vice is "frustrated" with the slow progress in launching its own cable network with A+E, The Wall Street Journal reported. Comcast, with its offering of cable networks and marketplace access, could be a white knight for Vice, an ambitious media player which has been valued at as much as $2.5 billion.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.