Skip to main content

Comcast Works Jake Out On Demand

Comcast Corp. is beefing up its video-on-demand fitness offering by partnering with exercise impresario Jake Steinfeld, who will create original content for the MSO’s on-demand platform.

Steinfeld will serve as chairman of Exercise TV Productions, a new company Comcast is forming to produce fitness, sports instruction and motivational programming for the its VOD service.

“Fitness was made for video on demand and video on demand for fitness,” said Steinfeld, who will oversee all aspects of Exercise TV’s original production, talent and content development.

STAR HUNT IS ON

Comcast and Steinfeld, founder of Body by Jake Global, are also conducting a national hunt for “the next generation” of fitness stars, who will get shows on the MSO’s VOD platform. Exercise TV Productions will act as a talent scout and management agency for those fitness celebrities-in-the-making.

The new original programming being created by Steinfeld is slated to debut on Comcast Fitness On Demand later this year. The fitness VOD offering, which Comcast added to its on-demand lineup late last year, will be rebranded as Exercise TV, according to Matt Strauss, Comcast’s vice president of VOD content development.

Comcast has acquired hundreds of hours of fitness programming — in categories such as pilates, yoga, cardio, quick workouts — and offers 20 hours per month on VOD, refreshing 25% of it each week. But the MSO wants to pump up that fitness VOD offering, which has a lot of female appeal, with original programming.

The fitness VOD service has been a success, generating close to several million views every month, according to Strauss. (Comcast said the view number was “close to 2 million” in March.)

“We just want to go bigger and deeper into this category because we think it’s a killer application for video on demand,” Strauss said.

The goal is to ultimately make Comcast fitness on demand 100% original fare, according to Steinfeld.

Most recently, Steinfeld had partnered with Discovery Networks U.S. for its relaunch of The Health Network as FitTV last year. Discovery had acquired THN for $255 million in cash and equity from the Fox Cable Network Group. But Steinfeld and Discovery concluded their relationship last fall.

Fox had created THN by merging the predecessor network FitTV, which Steinfeld had founded in 1993, and America’s Health Network.

Steinfeld has been trying to get a linear exercise diginet off the ground ever since he sold his interest in FitTV to Fox Cable and News Corp. in 1999.

'PERFECT PARTNER’

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I finally have the perfect partner.”

In late 2000 and early 2001, Steinfeld said he discussed getting a 24-hour exercise network launched with Fred Dressler, Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president of programming, and Amy Banse, now Comcast’s executive vice president of content development.

“I always remember Amy pushing and telling me about video on demand,” he said.

Ultimately, Steinfeld was convinced that VOD, not a linear network, was the way to go.

“The biggest challenge that any fitness programmer has is the shows have been notoriously on early, early in the morning,” Steinfeld said. “The great opportunity with video on demand is it’s there when you want it. The biggest complaint we used to get — whether it was in the day of people sending in cards or letters or e-mails — was 'Jeez Jake, I wish the shows were on at 5 in the afternoon or at 9 at night when my kids are asleep and this is my first chance to exercise.’”

To unearth new talent, Steinfeld and Comcast will be inviting certified fitness instructors to submit 10-minute videos of themselves leading a workout routine. Some of those tapes will be made available on Comcast On Demand, and viewers will be able to vote for their favorites at Comcast.net, according to Steinfeld.

The winners will become hosts of their own series, which will be produced by Exercise TV and be featured on Comcast On Demand.

Steinfeld is also talking to pro athletes, like Baltimore Ravens’ Deion Sanders, about hosting the sports instruction programming, which would cover football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, hockey and volleyball.

“The goal is to have this virtual fitness center,” Steinfeld said.

INTEGRATING ADS

He is already talking to sponsors about developing original content and integrating advertising into that programming.

“These guys don’t want to be TiVo-ed out of programming,” Steinfeld said. “What we’re going to be able to do is inject sponsorships inside a show to make it a part of the fabric of the show, which you can do with exercise. I’m not talking about putting a bottle of water on the set.”

Comcast’s fitness on demand will also be engaged in e-commerce, by selling the latest exercise products, equipment and videos, according to Strauss.

“My products will be available as well as the top products in the industry,” Steinfeld said.