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Comcast may be chatting with new-media firms to snag younger users

The cable giant is eyeing acquisitions and investments in the land of new media as a way to win over younger people who don't watch as much traditional TV, says the Wall Street Journal.

Comcast may be discussing content deals with new-media computers as a way to bring in younger viewers. CNET

Comcast may be trying to woo young viewers who watch less TV by setting up deals to air content that will appeal more to them.

The cable company has been holding preliminary talks with several online publishers, such as Vice Media, BuzzFeed, Business Insider and Vox Media, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. These firms are seen as "new-media" companies that publish stories about news, business, culture and other topics that might grab younger viewers. In a bid to grab their content, Comcast may decide to acquire some of these firms, invest in them or end up doing nothing as it's still exploring its options, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The cable industry finds itself at a crossroads as more people are eschewing traditional and expensive cable TV packages in favor of online services. Younger consumers especially are more likely to watch online video via their mobile devices than TV shows on the family television set. To fight back, cable companies and channels, such as HBO and Showtime, now offer cheaper, standalone online-only services. Comcast recently unveiled its own $15-per-month streaming TV service. But assuming the Journal's sources are right, Comcast also wants to tweak its cable programming to lure back those younger viewers.

As one example, Comcast could invest in Vice Media, which is known for its "edgy" online and TV programming, the Journal said. Such a deal could turn one of Comcast's networks in its NBCUniversal cable unit into a Vice channel, or Vice could actually buy one of the cable networks from NBCUniversal, according to the Journal's sources.

All of this is up in the air so far. The discussions with Comcast are still at an early stage. Many new-media companies are chatting with other potential investors in a bid to get in on the TV action. And such companies as Disney and 21st Century Fox have also been looking to cut deals with digital media companies. But Comcast could use a boost at this point.

On Thursday, the company reported a 1 percent drop in revenues and a 4.6 decline in operating cash flow for its cable networks unit. During the earnings call, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke was talking about advanced advertising sales for the cable network, the Journal noted, and called it a "challenging time for the industry."

Comcast did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.