A Multiplatform 'Star’ Is Born

Comcast Corp.’s video-on-demand and broadband services will get the first shot later this month at airing the premiere episode of Noggin/The N’s new scripted series, Instant Star.

The premiere installment of the 13-episode series, depicting the life of a teen singer and songwriter who is propelled to superstardom after she wins a national American Idol-style talent competition, will be available exclusively via Comcast On Demand and comcast.net from June 24 to June 30 before it bows on the network July 1, said Noggin/N president Tom Ascheim.

In addition to the premiere episode, Comcast will make available exclusive ancillary content from the series, including music video fare from the show, an interview with the show’s lead star, Alexz Johnson, and a sneak preview of the upcoming season.

Ascheim said Comcast will also offer encore plays of each show via VOD and broadband beginning July 11 through November. The MSO’s high-speed Internet portal (www.comcast.net) will also host an exclusive live chat between the show’s on-air talent and viewers.

In the past, The N has offered original content to Comcast for its broadband service, most recently repeats of its February miniseries Miracle’s Boys. Last December, Comcast also premiered a Noggin original movie, Franklin’s Magic Christmas, two weeks before it aired on the network.

But Ascheim said the Instant Star promotion marks the first time the network is bowing an original scripted series via broadband and VOD. He added the preview will hopefully reach the network’s target audience of 12-to-17-year-olds who are predisposed to using the Internet and VOD.

“Comcast allows us to reach [our audience] where they are, which is on the [Internet],” he said. “I think we’re all in a position to use technology to our advantage, rather than being frightened by it.”

While the MSO doesn’t break out its broadband and VOD usage by age or gender, Liz Schimel, senior vice president of content development for Comcast’s high-speed unit, said that many of the MSO’s more than 7.4 million broadband households consist of families with children, and the show is attractive content for such users.

“We like N’s [tween] target demographic and we think [Instant Star] makes sense, particularly from an Internet perspective, to help reach that young audience,” she said. “We would only do this type of broadband premiere with content that we feel is really appropriate for our audience, and The N is a trusted partner in creating a great environment for families with children.”

Ascheim said he’s not concerned that the broadband airing will take viewers away from the channel’s July 1 debut. To assure greater value for the cable premiere, Ascheim said the network will air the first two episodes of the series, compared with Comcast receiving only the first 30-minute show.

“The Comcast premiere works as a great preview for what will be an hour debut on our air,” he said. “If we did it all the time with every episode, we’d worry more, but as a way to warm up an audience, I think it’s great.”

Schimel would not reveal performance projections for the Instant Star debut, but said the ability to premiere network-quality content will build value and appeal for its broadband and VOD services.

“Between broadband and VOD we’ll get terrific exposure and usage from airing this show, as well as exclusive content that we’ll distribute throughout our platforms,” she said.

Comcast continues to look to partner with other Viacom Inc. services as well as other distributors.

“You’ll see us get very closely behind programs with our top-tier programming partners on the content side,” she said. “We’ll do these partnerships on the cable-network side that will bring more great programming to market.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.