Comcast Pulls AZN; Would More Set-Top-Viewing Data Have Saved It?

It's a telling sign when even the most powerful cable operator in the land has trouble making a go of its own in-house cable network.

Unfortunately, it's more troubling that the network, Comcast Corp.'s AZN Television -- one catering to a seemingly underserved audience, Asian-Americans -- couldn't make a go of it. Only getting to 13.9 million subscribers, Comcast couldn't grow the network past its small distribution level, which also hurt its ability to get those big national advertising dollars.

One would think in this burgeoning digital age, where micro-niche media platforms are encouraged, Comcast could have found a way to keep it going. Advertisers could have then supported it.

It's always a catch-22: You need programming to get distribution, to get ratings, to get advertising, to get more programming and distribution.

Comcast seemingly could have gone all digital or broadband with AZN, or perhaps developed a pure video-on-demand programming network.

Perhaps big cable operators need to loosen their seemingly valuable set-top data from millions of subscribers' homes to help these struggling networks. Media agency executives have implored the big company to part with more of that viewing data.

For its part, Comcast would say it's moving on this front -- albeit slowly. It recently made a small deal with Nielsen to use its set-top data as a basis for a measuring service for VOD programming.

Overall, media agency executives say cable operators seemingly don't want to part with the majority of their set-top data -- perhaps in the belief that information should be valued much higher than it is.

From the media executives' viewpoint, they are telling cable operators that parting with more set-top information will only help them to get what the really want - improved local cable advertising sales. This might give under-pressure channels more time to properly build a network and national advertising sales.

Perhaps all this might save networks like AZN



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