March 6, 2020
Comcast’s Xfinity Flex is a free (i.e. ad-supported) platform and set-top device that affords broadband-only subscribers access to premium content, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, HBO, Showtime and more than 10,000 movies on demand.
Flex was launched to counter ongoing declines in linear pay-TV as consumers migrate to over-the-top video, which requires broadband connectivity. Comcast is one of the largest ISPs in the country, adding around 1.4 million broadband subscribers in 2019.
While much of the media attention revolves around the cloud-based Xfinity X1 set-top and the April 15 launch of NBCUniversal’s subscription streaming video service Peacock, Flex has quietly gained momentum, according to Comcast Corp. chairman Brian Roberts.
Speaking this week at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Roberts said Flex enables the company to secure cord-cutters migrating to third-party services.
“Half of all our sales last year, give or take, were broadband only,” Roberts said. “So we want to give them a road map to consume video, to have lower churn, to have higher advertising and, ultimately, have a better experience with our company and perhaps buy X1 and more video products.”
The concept quickly gained traction, forcing Comcast to scale back Flex as it ran out of Xfinity set-top devices (similar to Roku devices) last fall. The platform just added additional content options, including CBS All Access, Starz and Hulu, which Comcast last year sold its 30% stake in to Disney for a reported $5.8 billion.
Flex will also feature Peacock and about 100 other third-party apps. Roberts said it costs Comcast about $50 per Flex sub, which the executive considers a long-term investment.
“They now have our X1 [device] or any service we might dream up in the next 50 years,” he said. “It’s early days, but I can tell you, we put out more Flexes than we’ve lost video [subs],” he said.