In connection with Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2010, we announced a number of public interest benefits and commitments that will allow us to better serve the entertainment, communications, and information needs of American consumers. These benefits and commitments represent part of our business plan, expand on the existing strengths of Comcast and NBCUniversal, and highlight the new opportunities this combination makes possible.
In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) placed certain conditions on the NBCUniversal transaction, including competitive, public interest, and diversity conditions that track many of our voluntary commitments. In February of 2012, Comcast and NBCUniversal filed our first annual report detailing our implementation of the conditions adopted by the FCC in the NBCUniversal Transaction Order ►
As the report shows, our commitments and the conditions, though extensive, have been incorporated into our business activities and have become part of the company’s “DNA.” The substantial public interest benefits promised by the transaction and the competitive safeguards sought by the government are being realized. We are proud of the achievements of our first year — from increasing broadband adoption among low-income Americans to increasing local news coverage, expanding the carriage of diverse programming to committing to launch new independent channels with diverse ownership.
In keeping with our voluntary commitment to introduce the Comcast Broadband Opportunity Program, we launched Internet Essentials, the largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program in America. By the end of 2011, the program had already connected more than 41,000 homes to the Internet, most for the first time. We also announced significant enhancements to the program that will increase the number of eligible households, make it easier for them to sign up for the program, and enhance the attractiveness of the service. More in the Community Investment section on closing the digital divide ►
We committed to increased carriage of diverse networks and made good on that promise, increasing carriage of the Africa Channel by two million homes; Mnet by four million homes; and TVOne by 600,000 homes. Comcast also expanded distribution of seven Hispanic or Spanish-language independent networks by 14 million homes, surpassing the target of three networks and 10 million homes in our commitment. More in the Diversity & Inclusion section on Diverse Content ►
We committed to launch 10 new independent channels by 2019, and moved quickly to begin to make that a reality ahead of schedule. We have announced plans to launch four independent networks — Aspire, BabyFirst Americas, El Rey, and REVOLT — well within the time frame required by the conditions. More in the Diversity & Inclusion section on Independent Networks ►
With the launch of BBC World News, we are already half-way through our eight-year commitment after one year.
Comcast and NBCUniversal have committed to make more content available on video on demand (VOD) and online, and we have over-delivered. NBC.com continues to be a vibrant source of programming online, with the expansion of primetime content and growth in live streaming of sports events from NBC Sports, including Super Bowl XLVI, which was streamed online by a record 2.1 million unique viewers. We have increased the number of XFINITY On Demand choices available — at no additional charge — to about 24,000 per month, up from 15,000. In a major first, Comcast’s XFINITY VOD service is the only on demand service that offers shows from all four broadcast networks as soon as the day after they air.
Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to preserve and enrich the output of local news, local public affairs, and other public interest programming on its NBC- and Telemundo-owned stations. We have delivered on that promise by investing millions of dollars to expand local news at the 10 owned NBC stations by hiring more than 130 new people, investing in new vehicles and equipment, launching new consumer and investigative units in five markets, and including new, round-the-clock, local “nonstop” channels on the stations’ digital multicast channels in five additional markets. Similarly, the Telemundo Station Group is making a multimillion-dollar investment to upgrade local technical infrastructure at its top Hispanic market stations to provide local high-definition news production capability. News continues to be a hallmark of the NBC Network, which recently launched Rock Center with Brian Williams, the first new primetime newsmagazine since 2002.
Additionally, the NBC Owned Television Stations division and the Telemundo Station Group each committed to locally produce an additional 1,000 hours of local news and information programming, and they significantly over-delivered. The NBC Owned Television Stations division announced an increase of close to 2,000 scheduled hours of local news programming at its 10 stations, exceeding the commitment’s requirement by nearly 100%. The Telemundo Station Group also increased local news and public affairs programming at its stations by more than 1,200 hours in an expansion initiative completed in January 2012, exceeding total hours of new Telemundo news programming in the commitment by more than 20%.
NBCUniversal committed to expand its partnerships with non-profit news organizations to mirror the arrangement already in place between NBC 7 San Diego and the VoiceofSanDiego.org, and, after running a transparent process, NBCUniversal selected four new partners to help enhance local news coverage. Pro Publica has partnered with NBC 4 New York, The Chicago Reporter has partnered with NBC 5 Chicago, WHYY has partnered with NBC 10 Philadelphia, and KPCC Southern California Public Radio has partnered with NBC 4 LA.
Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to add to our existing efforts to empower parents in making informed programming choices for their children, and we are proud of our achievements. After careful review and redesign, NBC improved the visibility of all ratings icons by enlarging their size by more than 50% and ensured their readability with high-contrast background-to-foreground color combinations. All ratings icons, including the post-commercial break events, are displayed on screen for 15 seconds. Additionally, all owned cable networks complied with the National Cable Telecommunication Association’s 2005 Network Policy on the size, placement, and duration of TV ratings icons.
On-screen parental ratings icons were added to NBCUniversal-produced or -licensed TV programming provided to 14 NBCUniversal websites, plus Hulu.com and XfinityTV.com.
We invested more than $17 million in PSA campaigns focused on parental controls and digital literacy, plus other topics such as childhood obesity and FDA nutritional guidelines. This investment exceeded our commitment by more than $2 million.
We expanded our library of Common Sense Media content, including thousands of review videos, tip videos, ratings, and recommendations that are integrated with our VOD service. More in the Media that Matters section on Common Sense Media ►
Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to increase children’s programming choices, and we increased children’s on demand programming by about 1,000 choices, exceeding our first-year commitment by 500 choices, or 100%. Total children’s VOD programming choices now average 3,000 per month. The NBC Owned Television Stations division is airing an additional fourth hour of children’s educational/instructional (E/I) programming every week on each of its 10 stations’ multicast channels. Similarly, Telemundo also added an additional hour per week of children’s programming across its owned stations.
We committed to expanding our broadband network by 1,500 miles in 2011 and upgrading for Internet service in at least six additional rural communities, and we significantly over-delivered on that promise — expanding our network by 2,044 miles, surpassing the first-year target by 544 miles. This expansion enabled Internet service in 33 rural communities, exceeding our commitment by 27 communities. In addition, we extended our broadband plant to 199,876 additional homes, satisfying almost 50% of our three-year commitment of 400,000 homes.
Comcast committed to strengthen PEG programming by developing a pilot program to host PEG content on demand and online and Comcast successfully initiated placement of community-designated PEG content on XFINITY On Demand and in online test platforms in six pilot communities: Fresno, CA; Hialeah, FL; Houston, TX; Medford, MA; Peterborough, NH; and Philadelphia, PA. Comcast has branded this initiative “Project Open Voice.”
We pledged to make focused investments to ensure that the NBC Television Network remains vibrant and competitive, and we have been true to our word. Comcast has invested an additional $300 million for NBCUniversal programming, $200 million of which was targeted at primetime for the NBC Network. In addition, NBC received an infusion of creative energy and organizational support to “go big” and reclaim our leadership among the broadcast networks.
Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to maintain major sporting events on the NBC broadcast network, and not only did we do so, but 2011 also saw substantial investments in sports programming. We successfully extended our rights for many years to National Football League programming, National Hockey League programming, and to the Olympics. Telemundo will feature World Cup and other FIFA soccer events from 2015 through 2022.
Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to enhance diversity in various areas, and we have gone above and beyond our commitments, striving to develop the premier model of diversity and inclusion in the communications and entertainment industries. More in the Diversity & Inclusion section ►
Comcast committed to establish a $20 million venture capital fund to expand opportunities for businesses with minority ownership in new media content and applications, and we delivered on that promise as well. Comcast Ventures created the fund and, as a first investment, partnered with DreamIt Ventures in Philadelphia. This program has funded training for five start-up businesses with minority ownership as each developed a business case and pilot.