AMC Networks, Comcast Reach New Multiyear Distribution Agreement — That Includes Streaming

AMC Networks and Comcast Cable Jan. 31 announced a new multiyear distribution agreement that includes continued carriage of AMC Networks’ linear networks and expanded availability of its targeted streaming services (Acorn TV, AMC+, etc.) to Xfinity TV and broadband customers. AMC+ was first launched to Xfinity customers in the summer of 2020 and has grown rapidly since.

“We are excited to continue and also expand our longstanding partnership with Comcast through a new agreement that includes not only continued carriage of our cable networks, but also our fast-growing targeted streaming services,” Josh Reader, president of distribution and development for AMC Networks, said in a statement.

Reader said 2022 would be the biggest year of original programming in AMC’s history with final seasons of “The Walking Dead” — the highest-rated series in the history of cable television — “Killing Eve” and “Better Call Saul.” The year will also feature a wide array of new series, including the courtroom drama “61st Street,” “Dark Winds,” “Tales of the Walking Dead,” “Moonhaven” and the first two series in an Anne Rice universe, “Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” and “Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches.”

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Comcast Lost 1.5 Million Cable Subscribers in 2021

Comcast Cable Jan. 27 reported a loss of 1.49 million pay-TV subscribers in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021. That compared with a subscriber loss of 1.29 million in 2020. The cabler lost 349,000 subs in the fourth quarter, up 53% from a sub loss of 227,000 in the previous-year period. Comcast ended 2021 with 17.5 million pay-TV subs, down from 18.9 million in 2020.

On the flipside, Comcast continues to grow its high-speed internet market share, ending the year with 29.5 million broadband subscribers. That’s up 4.4% from 28.3 million subs in 2020. Broadband is a requisite conduit to distribute streaming video in subscriber households.

For the year, cable revenue increased 7.1% compared to 2020 to $64.3 billion, driven by growth in broadband, wireless, business services, advertising, video and other revenue, partially offset by a decrease in voice (i.e., telecom) revenue.

“Our top priority is increasing the capacity of our network in the U.S. and further improving our world-class broadband experience,” Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “[Our] strong operating and financial performance in 2021 was underscored by our highest full-year revenue, [pre-tax earnings] and free cash flow on record. We continue to execute extraordinarily well, strengthening our leadership position in connectivity, aggregation, and streaming.”

Comcast Ups Q3 Cable Sub Loss to 382,000

Comcast Cable Oct. 28 reported it lost 382,000 legacy pay-TV subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). That is up more than 50% from a sub loss of 253,000 during the previous-year period. Comcast ended the period with 17.8 million video subs, down from 19.2 million a year ago.

The declines reflect ongoing secular declines in pay-TV as consumers migrate to over-the-top video platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

The nation’s largest cable operator has lost more than 1.1 million pay-TV subs in 2021 since Jan. 1, excluding the loss of 147,000 retail subscribers. That’s up from 1 million in the previous-year period.

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On the positive side, Comcast is one of the biggest ISPs in the world — the lifeline for streaming video delivered into the home. The company added 281,000 high-speed internet subscribers, to end the period with 29.3 million subs. That’s up more than 5% from 27.8 million broadband subs last year. Comcast has another 2.3 million business broadband subscribers.

Comcast Cable Q2 Sub Loss Cools, Broadband Gain Skyrockets

As expected, Comcast Cable, the nation’s largest pay-TV operator, saw continued consumer migration away from linear television to over-the-top video distribution. The cabler said it lost 399,000 residential and business video subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30, to finish the period with more than 18.9 million subs. That compared with a sub loss of 477,000 during the previous-year period, ending at 20.3 million total subs.

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Year-to-date sub losses top 889,000, which is par with 887,000 sub loss in the previous-year period.

On the flip side, Comcast added 354,000 high-speed Internet subs, ending the quarter with 31.3 million subs. That compared with a gain of 323,000 subs and 29.4 million broadband subs in the previous-year period. Year-to-date, Comcast has added 814,000 broadband subs compared with 800,000 additions last year.

Cable revenue increased 14.5% to $7.1 billion in the quarter of 2021, reflecting higher revenue, partially offset by an 8.2% increase in operating expenses largely due to the return of live sports events.

“At cable, our performance was exceptional, highlighted by 11% revenue and 15% [adjusted pre-tax earnings] growth, the best broadband and total customer relationship net additions on record for a second quarter,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.

Comcast to Stream Tokyo Summer Olympics Beyond Peacock Platform

Comcast July 13 announced plans to deliver the Olympic viewing experience beyond the Peacock streaming platform, and include Xfinity subscribers on X1, Flex and the Xfinity Stream app. And for the first time, Comcast will offer the Games live in 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos sound.

As the country prepares for the start of the pandemic-delayed Games that will be void of any spectators due to Delta variant concerns, Comcast is rolling out new features on Xfinity X1, Xfinity Stream and, for the first time, Xfinity Flex, to bring compelling Olympic stories to more viewers here in the U.S.

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“This year, new features make navigating the Games even easier and more personalized, taking the Olympics experience to a new level,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment services for Comcast Cable, said in a statement. “And now with Flex, we have the opportunity to leverage some of the best features of X1, like our voice remote and aggregated guide, to introduce the Olympics and all its passion, exhilaration and glory to even more Xfinity customers.”

“Comcast’s work elevating the Olympics viewing experience has set a new industry standard for how we bring consumers the live events they care about deeply,” added Mac Budill, president of networks distribution for NBCUniversal. “We know these capabilities mean more engagement, personalization and time spent with arguably the most anticipated sporting event of our lifetime.”

On Xfinity Flex, Comcast will offer streamers a X1-like Olympics destination that brings all the Olympics-related programming available to stream on the platform into one integrated experience easily accessible by saying “Olympics” into the Xfinity Voice Remote.

Anchoring the destination will be all of Peacock’s live and on-demand programming that’s offered free to all Flex customers, including six themed channels; four live-studio shows; live coverage of gymnastics, track & field and the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team, hundreds of short-form highlights and trending news clips; and several original docuseries and documentaries. Peacock’s programming will be curated alongside other Olympic-related programming from streaming services such as YouTube, HBO Max, Prime Video and more.

Flex customers wanting to experience more of the Games can quickly and easily upgrade to Xfinity TV via the Stream app so they can access NBC’s live coverage, including the Opening Ceremony and nightly Primetime Show, Telemundo and special access to Olympic Channel and Universo directly on their Flex device.

Comcast’s X1 set-top box will once again offer Xfinity TV customers the premiere Olympics viewing experience, offering aggregated, curated and personalized access to all 7,000 hours of NBCUniversal’s live, on demand, and streaming coverage of the Games — all in one place — on the TV and across mobile devices with the Xfinity Stream app.

Saying “Olympics” into the Xfinity Voice Remote will take customers to the Olympics destination, while special voice commands for athletes, sports, teams and featured nations will allow customers to get to their favorite Olympics content quickly.

X1 features include the first-ever fully-personalized experience across devices. With X1’s new personalization capabilities, customers can choose their favorite sports in just a few clicks to customize their Olympics destination, making it easier to find the live coverage they care about most alongside highlights of each chosen sport curated into their own personalized playlist. Any favorited sports will carry over to the Xfinity Stream app, so customers will see the same personalized experience when accessing the Games on the go.

  • Notifications for must-see moments. Customers will also have the option to receive notifications for their favorite sports and get live tune-in alerts for major moments and quick links to trending highlights directly on their TV and/or mobile device.
  • 100 editorially-curated playlists. Curated and updated in real-time by Xfinity sports editors with trending videos and breaking news, each playlist enables customers to lean in to choose the highlights they want to see or lean back and watch the stories of the Games unfold. The editors will
    create dedicated playlists for each Olympic sport, unique playlists for 30+ of the most-popular athletes, and more than a dozen themed playlists, such as “Gold Medal Moments,” “Best of Team USA,” “Record-Breakers,” “Epic Celebrations” and more.
  • The Olympics will be shown available live in 4K HDR with Dolby Atmos immersive audio, and X1 will offer customers full access. And for the first time, X1 customers with compatible devices will be able to experience all HDR coverage in Dolby Vision HDR. Live coverage will be available in most markets and include every night of the NBC primetime show, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, along with popular sports like gymnastics, track & field, swimming, diving, beach volleyball, golf, and tennis.
  • Sport, Athlete, and Nation pages. Every sport, top athlete and major nation will have their own voice-enabled X1 destination, blending live, on demand and short form programming so that customers can stay up to date on the sports, personalities and teams they care about most. Each page will be refreshed and updated daily and showcase programming that’s airing now, upcoming coverage, and the best highlights and replays.
  • Spanish-language coverage and specialized experience. X1 and Stream will bring NBCUniversal’s 300 hours of Spanish-language coverage to customers at home or on the go, and special in-language voice commands, such as “Olimpiadas,” “natacion” and “medallero,” will help
    customers navigate the Games in Spanish.
  • Audio Description enabled for key Olympic moments. Audio description will be enabled on the Olympics primetime show and Opening and Closing ceremonies (including the 4K version) so visually impaired customers can enjoy the excitement of the Games with their friends and family.

Comcast Loses 491,000 Pay-TV Subs in 90 Days, Expects ‘Elevated’ Sub Losses in Q2

Comcast Cable April 29 reported it lost 491,000 pay-TV subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31). The tally, which included 87,000 business subscribers, topped the previous-year period loss of 409,000 subscribers. Comcast ended the quarter with 19.3 million subs — down 1.5 million subs from the same period in 2020.

The nation’s largest cable operator attributed the subscriber losses to ongoing consumer shifts to over-the-top video distribution — a trend that isn’t slowing down.

“We expect video losses in the second quarter [ended June 30] will remain elevated,” CEO Mike Cavanagh said on the fiscal call.

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That transition has become a boon to Comcast’s high-speed Internet business, a pre-requisite for streaming video. As one of the largest ISPs in the country, Comcast added 461,000 broadband subs, which was actually down from 477,000 additions in the previous-year period. The tally includes business subscribers.

Notably, video revenue of $5.6 billion was consistent with the prior-year period, reflecting a decrease in the number of residential video customers offset by an increase in average subscriber rates.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Topped 33 Million Sign-Ups in 2020; Comcast Lost 1.3 Million Cable Subs

NBCUniversal’s hybrid Peacock SVOD/AVOD streaming platform topped 33 million sign-ups by the end of 2020 — about six months after launching nationwide on July 15. The platform, which includes an ad-supported free option; $4.99 monthly tier with ads (free to Comcast and Cox pay-TV subs); and $9.99 ad-free tier, had reached 26 million subs by Dec. 8. It is projected to reach 35 million subs by 2024, according to corporate parent Comcast.

Sign-ups versus SVOD subscriptions is key since Peacock is a hybrid business model where sign-ups to the AVOD option are required to attract advertisers, and can lead to paid subscriptions.

“We’re at the very beginning of this [streaming] business, but we’re very confident, based on the small amount of time that this is exactly the right business model,” Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, said on the Jan. 28 fiscal call. “People are signing up and advertisers are very interested in buying it.”

Separately, Comcast Cable continues to lose legacy pay-TV subscribers, jettisoning 1.29 million in 2020, compared with 671,000 subs in 2019. Comcast lost another 114,000 business subs as well, up from 61,000 subs lost in 2019.

Comcast ended the year with 19.8 million linear TV subs, down 1.4 million from 21.3 million in 2019.

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A silver lining on pay-TV losses, subscribers migrating to over-the-top video services need high-speed Internet service to get it. Comcast is the largest broadband provider in the country with more than 30 million subscribers at the end of 2020. That compared with 28.6 million broadband subs in 2019.

“We added 538,000 net new broadband customers [in Q4, ended Dec. 31, 2020],” Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Outstanding performance at cable drove very strong fourth quarter results for our company.”

HBO Max App Comes to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex

WarnerMedia and Comcast Cable Dec. 15 announced the rollout of the HBO Max app on cloud-based Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms, providing Xfinity subscribers with direct access to Max’s full portfolio of original series and programming.

X1 and Flex customers will be able to access the Max app over the Internet by saying “HBO Max” into the Xfinity Voice Remote or, for example, by saying the name of a desired title (like, “The Flight Attendant”). Xfinity subs will also be able to find Max content library integrated throughout the X1 and Flex, including in current and evergreen collections such as “Best of 2020,” “Kids and Family,” “Black Film & TV” and more.

The launch on Xfinity comes ahead of the feature film release Wonder Woman 1984 starring Gal Gadot debuting on Max and in theaters on Christmas Day. Wonder Woman 1984 will be available in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos to Xfinity customers on supported X1 and Flex devices.

“Since launching HBO Max, our teams have worked closely to deliver a Max experience that would provide more frictionless access to Xfinity X1 and Flex customers,” Jennifer Mirgorod, head of sales and account management, WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement.

Cloud-based X1 provides subs with a comprehensive library of entertainment on one platform with thousands of choices — aggregating live TV, on-demand content, and third-party streaming apps from a collection of networks and streaming services. Xfinity Flex is a 4K streaming device included with Xfinity Internet that extends features of X1 to customers who only subscribe to Comcast’s high-speed Internet.

In addition to the release of Wonder Woman 1984, subs will have access to a wide array of programming debuting on Max this month, including the exclusive holiday special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, a new “Euphoria” special episode starring Emmy-winning actress Zendaya, Steven Soderbergh’s new comedy film Let Them All Talk, the third season of “Summer Camp Island,” and four-part docuseries “Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults.” Top films like The Shawshank Redemption, The Photograph, Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2, Gladiator, Meet Me in St. Louis and Demolition Man also premiere this month.

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January will bring the second “Euphoria” special episode, “Search Party” season four, a new season of “Selena + Chef,” the entire “Gossip Girl” library, season one of “Snowpiercer,” The Alienist: Angel of Darkness and The King of Staten Island. Additionally, as previously announced, each film in Warner Bros. Picture Group’s 2021 slate will debut on HBO Max in the U.S. concurrently with its theatrical release and will be available to stream exclusively for one month.

“The addition of the Max app is another example of how we make it easier for customers to find their favorite live, on demand or streamed entertainment,” said Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment in Comcast Cable.

Comcast Loses Record 477,000 Pay-TV Subs in Q2, Adds Most Broadband Subs in 13 Years

As expected, Comcast legacy cable pay-TV business represents a widening economic fissure, losing 477,000 pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter, ended June 30. That was more than double the 224,000 video subs lost in the previous-year period. The cable giant has lost more than 1.2 million video subs in the past 12 months as consumers increasingly turn away from linear TV to over-the-top video distribution, including SVOD and AVOD.

Offsetting the video losses is high-speed Internet, which counts Comcast as the largest ISP in the country. With high-speed Internet a prerequisite for OTT video, Comcast had the best second quarter high-speed Internet net adds in 13 years, adding more than 340,000 broadband subscribers compared with 182,000 in the previous-year period. That does not include more than 600,000 free “Internet Essentials” customers that are receive service during the coronavirus pandemic, but were not included in reported results because they do not pay for the access.

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Comcast has added more than 1.6 million broadband subscribers in the past 12 months, to end Q2 with 29.4 million subscribers.

“We are optimistic about the runway ahead,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said on the fiscal call.

Spotify Launches on Comcast’s Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex

Comcast June 22 announced that Spotify is now available to stream on cloud-based Xfinity platform, affording subscribers the ability to listen to the audio streaming service’s 50 million music tracks and podcasts directly on the TV.

Broadband-based Xfinity Flex subs can access Spotify with their Xfinity Voice Remote. Spotify will begin rolling out to X1 subs today over the Internet, and be available to all subs in the coming days, alongside all of the live, on demand, and streaming content.

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Comcast said it has seen double-digit growth in streaming music consumption this year versus the same time last year. Spotify is seeing the same trends from their end — the increase in working from home is showing that more users are now streaming music on their TVs.

“Music streaming on Xfinity X1 and Flex is at an all-time high and … alongside the growing catalog of entertainment already available on these platforms, adds even more great value to their Xfinity service,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment for Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

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New Spotify subs will be able to create an account directly on the device and immediately have access to the free, ad-supported version of the service. Spotify joins other music and listening streaming services already available on X1 and Flex, including Pandora, Amazon Music, Radio.com, iHeartRadio, XITE, NPR One, Music Choice, Stingray Music and Baeble.