May 19, 2024

Media Decoder: Holocaust Memories, via Cable

Ten films about the Holocaust will be made available to Comcast customers and others on Monday.

Comcast, the nation’s top cable company, is distributing 10 films about the Holocaust in a public service project it is calling “Days of Remembrance.” And it started with an unrelated telephone call to the director
Steven Spielberg.

The person calling Mr. Spielberg last year was
Brian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, which was acquiring NBCUniversal. Mr. Roberts had visited the Universal Studio lot, the location of Mr. Spielberg’s office, but had not had a chance to see him.

“I just decided to call him to tell him what a shame it was to be there and not see Steven Spielberg,” Mr. Roberts said. He said Mr. Spielberg responded: “Funny you should say that. We just sent you a letter.”

The USC Shoah Foundation Institute, which Mr. Spielberg began in 1994, had just approached Mr. Roberts about giving him an award and holding a fund-raiser. Mr. Spielberg suggested during the call that Mr. Roberts visit the institute, which records and preserves tens of thousands of Holocaust testimonies.

“What I saw there was fascinating,” Mr. Roberts said in an interview. “The stories were very in-depth,” he said. “Some were incredibly depressing. Some were incredibly uplifting.”

The institute is careful about how it shares the testimonies, he said. Comcast arranged for its customers to be able to watch 10 films, some in English and some in other languages, through video-on-demand and an iPad app. Others will be able to stream the films at The film distribution is pegged to Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 1, and will start Monday and last through May 25.

The partnership may be, in part, a way for Comcast to please Mr. Spielberg. But it also shows Comcast’s desire to use video-on-demand and the Web as outlets for public service projects.

In January, for instance, the company worked with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to distribute videos about the Kennedy presidency. Mr. Roberts said one of his goals for the merged Comcast and NBCUniversal was to “do some things that we can be very proud of.”

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