Today, Comcast and NBCUniversal filed our first annual report detailing implementation of the conditions adopted by the FCC in the NBCUniversal Transaction Order. We'll be filing these reports for the next six years to show the extensive measures we've taken to comply with and in many cases go above and beyond our commitments and the FCC's conditions in connection with the NBCUniversal transaction.
As the report shows, our commitments and the conditions, though extensive, have been incorporated into our business activities and become part of the company's "DNA." The substantial public interest benefits promised by the transaction and the competitive safeguards sought by the FCC 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. We're delivering on the promise of the Comcast-NBCUniversal combination:
1. In keeping with our voluntary commitment to introduce the Comcast Broadband Opportunity Program, Comcast launched Internet Essentials, the largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program in America. As of December 21, 2011, the program had already connected more than 41,000 homes to the Internet (an estimated 80,000 children and 160,000 low-income Americans), most for the first time, and Comcast has announced significant enhancements to the program which 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.
2. Comcast committed to increased carriage of independent networks, and made good on that promise, increasing carriage of diverse networks such as 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 three network and 10 million homes target in its commitment.
3. Comcast committed to launch 10 new independent channels by 2019, and moved quickly to begin to make that a reality ahead of schedule: on February 21, 2012, Comcast announced that it had reached agreements to launch the first four diverse and independent owned or operated channel additions well within the time frames required by the conditions. Last year, Comcast launched BBC World News, a new independent network. So we are half way through our eight-year commitment after one year.
4. Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to make more content available on VOD and online, and we have over-delivered:
a. NBC.com continues to be a vibrant source of programming online. This year also brought significant 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.
b. In 2011, Comcast increased the VOD choices available to its customers at no additional charge to an average of 24,000 per month, up from the 15,000 average monthly choices before the transaction closed.
c. In a major first, Comcast's VOD service is the only On Demand service that offers shows from all four broadcast networks as soon as the day after it airs.
5. 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, and delivered on that promise by investing millions of dollars to expand local news at the 10 owned NBC stations. The NBC Owned Television Stations Group hired more than 130 new people, invested in new vehicles and equipment, launched new consumer and investigative units in five markets, and made other enhancements, including new round-the-clock local "Nonstop" channels on the stations' digital multicast channels in five additional markets. Similarly, the Telemundo Station Group announced a multi-million dollar investment to upgrade local technical infrastructure at its top Hispanic market stations to give them 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.
6. Relatedly, 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, first when the NBC Owned Television Stations Group announced that it had scheduled an increase of close to 2,000 hours annually of local news programming at its 10 stations, exceeding the commitment's requirement by nearly 100%. Similarly, the Telemundo Station Group increased local news and public affairs programming at the stations by more than 1,200 hours in an expansion initiative completed in January 2012. This exceeds the total hours of new Telemundo news programming in the commitment by more than 20%.
7. 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 found four terrific new partners that will help enhance local news coverage: (1) Pro Publica partnered with NBC 4 New York; (2) The Chicago Reporter with NBC 5 Chicago; (3) WHYY with NBC 10 Philadelphia; and (4) KPCC Southern California Public Radio with NBC4 LA.
8. Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to do even more to empower parents to make informed programming choices for their children, and we are proud of our achievements:
a. By April 28, 2011, the NBC Network was airing improved TV ratings icons on all entertainment programming. After careful review and redesign, NBC improved the visibility of all ratings icons by enlarging the size by over 50% and ensuring 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.
b. By October 28, 2011, 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.
c. The Company invested over $17 million in public service announcement ("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.
d. Comcast expanded its library of Common Sense Media ("CSM") content, including thousands of review videos, tip videos, ratings, and recommendations that are integrated with its VOD service. NBCUniversal also strengthened its CSM partnership.
9. Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to increase children's programming choices, and we delivered:
a. Comcast increased children's VOD programming by approximately 1,000 choices, exceeding the first year commitment by 500 choices, or 100%. Total children's VOD programming choices now average 3,000 per month, up from 2,000 before the deal.
b. By October 28, 2011, the NBC Owned Television Stations division began airing an additional (fourth) hour of children's educational/instructional (E/I) programming every week on each of the 10 stations' multicast channels. Similarly, Telemundo also added an additional hour a week of children's programming across its owned stations.
10. Comcast committed to expand its broadband network by 1,500 miles in 2011 and upgrade for Internet service at least six additional rural communities and we significantly over-delivered on that promise by expanding the Comcast broadband network by 2,044 miles, surpassing the first year target by 544 miles, and enabled Internet service in 33 rural communities, exceeding our commitment by 27 communities. In addition, Comcast extended its broadband plant to 199,876 additional homes, satisfying almost 50% of the three-year commitment of 400,000 homes.
11. Comcast committed to strengthen PEG programming by developing a pilot program to host PEG content on VOD and online, and it successfully initiated placement of community-designated PEG content on VOD and 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 as "Project Open Voice".
12. Comcast and NBCUniversal 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 invested an additional $300 million for NBCUniversal programming, $200 million of which was targeted at prime time of the NBC Network. In addition, NBC received the necessary infusion of creative energy and organizational support to "go big" and reclaim its leadership among the broadcast networks.
13. 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 investment in sports programming. We successfully extended our rights for many years to National Football League programming, National Hockey League programming, and to the Olympics. Sports programming will also be featured on Telemundo, which successfully bid for World Cup and other FIFA soccer events from 2015 through 2022.
14. Comcast and NBCUniversal committed to enhance diversity in various areas, and we have gone above and beyond our commitments, striving to develop the premiere model of diversity and inclusion in the communications and entertainment industries. We made major strides in five key areas that were the focus of our commitments: (1) governance; (2) workforce recruitment and career development; (3) procurement; (4) programming; and (5) community investment and partnerships. From creating an external Joint Diversity Advisory Council consisting of national diverse leaders in business, entertainment, and civil rights; appointing two new minority directors to the Comcast Board; focusing recruiting and leadership programs on diverse talent; expanding an already robust supplier diversity program; increasing investment in diverse organizations in our communities; and carrying and supporting more diverse programming — Comcast and NBCUniversal are successfully carrying out their commitments to diversity and inclusion.
15. Comcast committed to, within six months of the closing, 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. Comcast Ventures, the company's venture capital arm, created the fund and, as a first investment, partnered with DreamIt Ventures in Philadelphia. This program funded the training for five start-up businesses with minority ownership as each developed a business case and pilot.