March 10, 2021
When Comcast launched the Xfinity Flex streaming media device in 2019, the strategy was to market an in-house product for broadband-only customers that could compete against Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV as a conduit for over-the-top video distribution.
Last year as NBCUniversal rolled out the Peacock hybrid subscription streaming, ad-supported video platform, negotiation issues kept the service off both Roku and Fire TV at launch. While availability of the Peacock app on Roku has been resolved, many of the platform’s 33 million sign-ups occurred due to Flex, according to CFO Mike Cavanagh.
Speaking March 10 on the virtual Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, Cavanagh said 3 million Flex devices have been licensed to Xfinity subs. Plans call to add additional services onto the device, including third-party apps.
“Video is changing from what it once was, and we’re moving to a streaming world for television” Cavanagh said. “Our broadband pipe is the best product to consume video.”
Comcast added 1.94 million high-speed Internet subscribers in 2020 to end the year with 28.3 million subs — making the erstwhile cable TV company the largest single ISP in the country.
“Not everyone, as we know given all the forces in the media market place, want to have the traditional cable bundle,” Cavanagh said, admitting Comcast for years fought that consumer sentiment.
Indeed, the cabler in 2017 embraced the new world order in dramatic fashion when CEO Brian Roberts publicly embraced longtime nemesis Netflix, affording the SVOD behemoth direct access to Xfinity subscribers.
“We clearly embraced where the world’s going,” Cavanagh said, adding that the Flex device enabled the company to enhance the existing cloud-based Xfinity set-top box for the streaming-centric consumer. More importantly, Flex was launched to reduce churn 15% to 20% among broadband-only subs versus a broadband customer without the device.
“Many people were worried we’d chase holding onto a video bundle even if it went upside down on us economically,” he said. “We are very eager to continue to super-serve the [pay-TV] segment of the market that values the full bundle … but if it’s not what you’re interested in, Flex gives us the same ability to get the same churn reduction benefit.”
Cavanagh said Flex ultimately becomes another platform providing video entertainment choices to subscribers.
“That can’t be a bad thing [as] 70% of Internet activity use is video entertainment consumption,” he said.