Comcast Adds Amazon Music to X1 Platform

Comcast Cable June 20 announced the availability of Amazon Music on Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex, marking the first time the ad-free and on-demand music streaming service is available directly on the TV through a pay-TV provider.

Amazon Music is now available on Xfinity Flex, Comcast’s recently launched service for Internet-only customers. Subs who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited are eligible for a 30-day free trial.

Last year, Comcast and Amazon launched Prime Video on X1, enabling Xfinity subscribers to access Prime Video’s original programming and catalog of shows, movies and live events via Xfinity on Demand or through the Prime Video app.

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The X1 platform is now in a majority of Xfinity customers’ homes.

Xfinity X1 and Flex customers can say “Amazon Music” into their voice remote to browse, search and listen to millions of songs and thousands of playlists and stations.

“Now Amazon Music listeners can effortlessly explore millions of songs, including the latest releases by their favorite artists, and much more directly through Xfinity,” Ryan Redington, director of Amazon Music, said in a statement.

With Amazon Music, Prime members have access to more than two million curated songs and thousands of playlists and stations. Users can also access to more than 50 million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Amazon Music Unlimited, the premium subscription tier.

“Amazon Prime Video quickly became one of the most-viewed services on X1 following its launch last year, so we are excited to expand our collaboration and enable our customers to also enjoy Amazon Music on the biggest screen in the home,” said Nancy Spears, VP, business operations and strategy, Comcast Cable.

Comcast Ending ‘Xfinity On Demand’ Access for TiVo Users

Comcast Cable reportedly is set to end access to its “Xfinity On Demand” app for TiVo devices, effective June 25.

In an email to subscribers — first reported by tech blogger Dave Zatz — Comcast said “out of date [TiVo] technology that cannot be upgraded or updated” was the reason for pending non-access.

Comcast said the shutdown would not affect recorded programming, and access to Xfinity Stream would still be available on Apple iOS, Android Xfinity apps and Xfinity website.

“VOD is also available on TiVo through Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Vudu apps,” read the message.

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The pending shutdown comes as TiVo and Comcast remain embroiled in tech royalty disputes. The DVR pioneer in April appealed to International Trade Commission and filed litigation against Comcast alleging patent infringement on technology related to streaming video and cloud-based DVR.

TiVo, which is splitting into two separate companies focusing on patents and hardware, in 2017 received ITC backing for a complaint involving remote time-shifting functionality on Comcast’s X1 set-top devices.

It filed litigation against Comcast in April in U.S. District Court in California.

“We believe Comcast’s Xfinity X1 continues to infringe Rovi’s cloud and multi-room DVR patents – a vital component of home entertainment,” Arvin Patel, EVP and CIPO at Rovi,” said in a statement.

Rovi, which acquired TiVo in 2016 for $1.1 billion and assumed the latter’s brand name for the merged companies, claims to have invested over a billion dollars into its patent portfolio and products.

“We are extremely proud of our patent portfolio of over 1,000 issued patents in the US.,” Patel said.

Comcast, which launched much of its cloud-based X1 features via TiVo technology, claims it has developed its own tech and that most TiVo patents in question are outdated.

Comcast in Talks with Disney to Sell Hulu Stake

Comcast reportedly is in talks with Disney to sell its 30% stake in Hulu, which includes online television platform Hulu with Live TV, according to CNBC, which cited internal sources.

CNBC is owned by Comcast business unit NBC Universal.

Disney currently owns 60% of the 12-year-old streaming service with 25 million subscribers after it acquired 20th Century Fox. AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit just sold its 10% stake back to Hulu for $1.43 billion.

The discussions, which CNBC said are in the preliminary stage, were revealed hours after Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts told investors the cable giant enjoyed owning a large stake of a Disney asset.

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“On Hulu, the relationship with NBC, it’s very much in everybody’s interest to maintain,” Roberts said on the all. “And we have no new news today on it, other than it’s really valuable. And we’re really glad we own a large piece of it.”

At the same time, with Disney firmly in control of Hulu and Comcast heretofore reluctant to move too far away from the pay-TV business model, selling its stake in an over-the-top business could help Comcast alleviate more than $100 billion in corporate debt following the $39 billion Sky acquisition.

Comcast reportedly could get $4.5 billion for its stake in Hulu, which lost $1.5 billion in 2018. Disney doesn’t expect Hulu to become profitable until 2024 — and only after possible international expansion.

At the same time, NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke remains skeptical of OTT business model, including Netflix.

“To be worth $150 billion, someday you’ve got to make at least $10 billion in EBITDA,” Burke told CNBC last year. “There’s at least a chance Netflix never makes that.”

Comcast, which only recently incorporated direct access to Netflix for its Xfinity pay-TV subscribers, plans to launch an OTT service for Xfinity in 2020.

Comcast Sheds 107,000 Q1 Video Subs; Sky Adds 112K

Subscriber losses to linear pay-TV in the United States keep adding up.

Comcast April 25 said it lost 107,000 residential video subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. That compared to a loss of 93,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

Comcast Cable ended the period with 20.8 million video subs, down 358,000 subs from the previous-year period.

The cable operator also lost 14,000 business video subs to end the period with about 1.01 million compared to 1.05 million last year.

Offsetting in part video sub declines, Comcast added 352,000 high-speed Internet customers, up 1,000 from last year.

The company ended the period with 25.4 million broadband subs compared to 24.2 million last year.

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Comcast also added 23,000 broadband business customers to top 2.1 million customers – up from 2 million in the previous-year period.

“Comcast Cable had the best quarterly [pre-tax] growth in over a decade,” Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said in a statement.

Separately, new business unit Sky upped its total subscriber count by 112,000 compared to a gain of 38,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The London-based satellite operator with business units in Germany and Italy ended the period with 23.7 million subs – up 809,000 subs from 22.9 million customers last year.

Sky generated $3.8 billion in direct-to-consumer revenue, which was down from $4.1 billion last year. DTC revenue also includes transactions such as packaged media, over-the-top video daily, weekly and monthly passes, pay-per-view and “buy-to-keep” content.

The Sky Store includes a DVD with every digital movie/TV show purchase.

Comcast, HBO Partner for ‘Game of Thrones’ Interactive Features

In the ongoing buildup to the April 14 premiere of the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Comcast Cable has partnered with the WarnerMedia subsidiary affording X1 subscribers interactive companion features for the last season.

X1 subs can select which “Game of Thrones” character they believe will claim the Iron Throne by saying “For the Throne” into the X1 voice remote.

This polling feature can be accessed at any time and enables subs to make their selection, see how it stacks up against other viewers in real time, and opt to send a special “Thrones” badge featuring the selected character to their mobile phone to share their allegiance across social networks.

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As events of the show unfold each week, subs can update their king or queen selection as often as they like by saying “For the Throne” into their voice remote.

Subs can hear quotes from the show’s main characters, including “Khaleesi,” “Jon Snow,” “Tyrion Lannister,” “Jaime Lannister,” “ Cersei Lannister,” “Arya Stark” and “Sansa Stark” spoken back to them. These new audio “dragon eggs” will remain on the platform throughout the season.

Finally, subs can explore a “Game of Thrones” destination on Xfinity On Demand by saying “Winter is Coming” into the voice remote.

The platform features exclusive content including: individual character recaps from cast members; 60-second series summaries from celebrities like Bill Hader and Henry Winkler; a video montage dedicated to all the characters who died; behind-the-scenes footage, including special effects, locations, and costumes; a Throne Room Yule Log; up-to-date“Thrones” news via YouTube; and “Thrones-inspired playlists from Pandora.

“Game of Thrones” continues to be the #1 series on Xfinity On Demand,”  Brynn Lev, VP, editorial & programming, content strategy & operations for Comcast Cable, wrote in a blog post.

Comcast is also streaming all past seasons of the show through its annual Watchathon binge-viewing event ending April 14.

 

 

Comcast Launching 7th Annual ‘Watchathon’ TV, Movie VOD Extravaganza on April 8

Comcast Cable April 2 announced the seventh annual Xfinity Watchathon Week will take place April 8-14, offering Xfinity subscribers access to thousands of free movies and shows, including more than 200 complete series.

Launched in response to rising over-the-top (and on-demand TV) competitors such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu (which Comcast co-owns), Xfinity subs customers can watch every episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” leading up to the season eight premiere on April 14th.

Other series include A&E’s “60 Days In,” Acorn TV’s “Manhunt,” Epix’s “Punk,” HBO’s “Veep,” MTV’s “The Hills,” NBC’s “This Is Us, and Showtime’s “Billions.”

In total, more than 340 million hours of on-demand programming from the last six years, and includes more than 70 networks and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as A&E, ABC, Acorn TV, Adult Swim, AMC Premiere, BET, Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Epix, Fox, Hallmark Movies Now, HBO, HGTV, History Vault,  Lifetime Movie Club, Paramount Network, Showtime, TBS, TLC, TNT, Tru, True Royalty TV, Urban Movie Channel and VH1. 

 Additionally, a selection of programming from networks and SVODs (i.e. Netflix) will be available for Internet-only customers to sample on the Xfinity Stream app and Xfinity Flex.

“Last year, our highest day of on-demand viewing happened during Xfinity Watchathon Week,” Daniel Spinosa, VP, video entertainment services, said in a statement. “As we continue to bring more of the entertainment our customers love, Watchathon Week is more exciting every year for both our customers and partners and its continued success is a testament to X1’s ability to make search and discovery of content fast and easy.”

To make navigating the massive amount of available programming, Comcast has initiated several technical features, including “auto play” functionality to automatically start the next episode of a series once the former one ends.

Activating the voice command, “Xfinity Home Watchathon,” to prep the room for a viewing session by dimming all connected lights and locking connected doors if subs have a Xfinity Home subscription and compatible devices

Saying “Watchathon” to explore a personalized curated destination highlighting content recommended just for them throughout the week

Picking up where they left off on a show or movie more quickly by saying “Continue watching Billions.”

Re-watching the memorable moments from a series by saying for example, “Show me the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm about Namaste.”

Additional features during Watchathon include:

Get in on buzzworthy shows such as Bravo’s Southern Charm, Epix’s Deep State, HBO’s Big Little Lies and Deadwood, TBS’s Search Party and from Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “The Affair,” by watching the full series before they return to TV.

Catch up on popular movies across genres such as Deadpool 2, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again on HBO; A Quiet Place and Spy Who Dumped Me on EPIX; and I Feel Pretty and The Dark Tower on Showtime.

Explore almost two dozen SVODs – no sign in required- including world class mysteries, dramas, and comedies from Britain and beyond from Acorn TV; award-winning documentaries from CuriosityStream on science, history, wildlife, adventure, travel and more; Lifetime movie favorites of all genres from Lifetime Movie Club; PlayKids’s cartoons, games, books, and activities for kids aged two to eight; Stingray Qello’s full-length concerts and music documentaries; and True Royalty’s original shows and documentaries about the British Royal Family and monarchies around the world.

Comcast Launches $5 Streaming Video Service with Netflix and Movies Anywhere Access

Comcast Cable has finally joined the over-the-top video ecosystem with the launch of Xfinity Flex — a $5 monthly service offering Xfinity broadband-only subscribers direct access (for a separate fee) to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now, in addition to ad-supported content, and digital movies for sale and rent.

Xfinity Flex comes with more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows — including live streaming TV — from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more.

The service features an integrated guide and voice control, enabling customers to browse and access programming across Netflix, Prime Video, HBO, and Showtime, rent and purchase movies and shows from the digital store, access their digital lockers across platforms by pairing their account with Movies Anywhere, or listen to music from Pandora, iHeartRadio, and XITE.

And soon, Xfinity Flex subs will be able to upgrade to the full Xfinity X1 cable service from the guide, which offers hundreds of live channels, tens of thousands of on demand titles, and a cloud DVR.

The service comes as Apple and Disney ready branded OTT video platforms, with WarnerMedia slated to launch a competing service in 2020.

“[The Internet] is becoming the center of gravity as we move more and more toward connectivity,” Matthew Strauss, EVP of Xfinity Services told CNET, which is owned by CBS Interactive.

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Strauss said the service would underscore Comcast’s ongoing strategy tying the Internet and television through the cloud-based Xfinity set-top.

“[We want consumers] to start thinking of the television as a digital display,” Strauss said.

Specifically,  Xfinity Flex will be packaged with an Internet-connected, 4K HDR streaming TV device, which includes a voice remote, integrated guide for accessing popular streaming video and music choices, as well as Comcast’s home WiFi, mobile, security and automation services.

“Xfinity Flex will deepen our relationship with a certain segment of our Internet customers and provide them with real value,” Strauss said.

As more connected devices, streaming choices, and smart home services come online, Xfinity Flex will provide customers with an easy way to better manage, control and enjoy the connected home as it continues to grow.

 

 

Comcast Enabling X1 Subs to Vote on ‘World of Dance’ TV Show With Voice Remote

Comcast Cable March 15 announced it would enable Xfinity X1 subscribers to use their voice-controlled remote to cast “fan favorite” votes on NBC’s “World of Dance” reality competition show from March 17 through April 28.

Subs will be able to select their favorite dance act even if the ensemble has already been eliminated. The act tabulating the most votes at the end of the season will get the chance to join the “World of Dance Experience” on Jennifer Lopez’s “It’s My Party” summer concert tour.

The mid-show marketing campaign involving viewer participation is a departure for “World of Dance,” where acts are voted on by celebrity judges Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough.

Comcast said the software integration builds on previous interactive features incorporated on “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent” that enable viewers to vote for their favorite artists and acts, and with Fandango and Ticketmaster, which enable them to browse movie and concert tickets on the TV.

Comcast, which owns NBC and Fandango, last September partnered with Ticketmaster enabling X1 subs to search concert tour dates and purchase tickets on the TV using their remotes.

“X1 enables us to unveil new and innovative experiences that complement and elevate content across the platform and to add more value for customers by giving them more ways to interact with the events, entertainment, performers and brands they love,” Nancy Spears,  VP, strategy & execution, said in a statement at the time.

 

 

Comcast Delaying 2020 AVOD Launch?

Comcast’s NBC Universal is set to launch an ad-supported over-the-top video service in 2020, targeting existing pay-TV subscribers as well as standalone consumers.

Or is it?

The launch was put into question after Comcast CEO Brian Roberts appeared to punt when asked about a specific timeframe for the OTT video service’s availability.

Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, Roberts said a date remained in the works.

“We’ll refine it as we go along,” he said. “We’re all in to create it and not be like Netflix. We’ll launch when it’s ready.”

Roberts said the service gives NBC Universal – which will manage the platform – the opportunity to deliver “smart ads” to new consumers, while enabling current pay-TV distributors the ability to “give more value” to their video customers – for free.

“What can we do that consumers will like and creates value for our shareholders?” Robert said.

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Comcast has long eschewed OTT video, arguing its legacy cable service and Xfinity X1 set-top box offer superior content and access options.

Declaring that Comcast, which acquired U.K. satellite TV operator Sky last year, sits on “an awful lot of content,” Roberts said some programming would be better monetized through AVOD, while other shows would be more suited to third-party platforms.

“We produce or purchase $24 billion worth of content (entertainment and sports) across the globe,” he said.

The executive said that remaining loyal to traditional distribution has contributed to NBC Universal tripling pre-tax earnings since Comcast acquired the company from GE in 2009.

“We don’t have the mindset to take it off all these existing distribution platforms, including HBO, pay-TV and broadcast TV,” Roberts said.

Thinking Globally

Following Comcast’s $39 billion acquisition of Sky, which operates business units in the U.K., Germany and Italy, the media company represents 15% of the global broadband and video market, while generating about 50% of the world’s broadband and video revenue, according to Roberts.

He said Comcast and Sky represent 4% of global broadband/video consumers and 12% of the revenue, which increases to 25% in the U.K.

“They are clearly the markets you want to operate in,” Roberts said. “We are growing our market share. I don’t think anybody has the scale we have and market opportunity.”

Indeed, high-speed Internet has become the company’s most-profitable business unit, with annual growth exceeding 10%.

5G More Hype than Bite

Roberts shrugged off 5G wireless industry chatter, likening the next-generation mobile technology similar to hype surrounding Google Fiber, which launched to much fanfare in 2010, and was scaled back by Google in 2016 due to rollout costs.

The CEO questioned whether 5G could be cheaper than fiber or coaxial.

“The answer is absolutely not,” Roberts said. “At least not in our judgement. It’s much more expensive.”

Comcast’s broadband subscribers use 100 times more data than the average mobile user, according to Roberts.

“They’re hoping to get to the speeds we have today,” he said. “And by the time they do, we’re hoping to be 10 times faster with wired.

“5G is one of these moments. We know it’s coming, what its implications will be, [and] we have people staying on top it.”

Finally, Roberts lauded Universal Pictures’ Best Picture Oscar for Green Book and weekend box office win for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

“I don’t think that’s happened very often in Hollywood where you do both on the same weekend,” he said.

 

 

Comcast Disputes Media Report It Favors Roku Over Proprietary Streaming App

Comcast Feb. 4 issued a statement disputing an online media report that it plans to scrap development of a proprietary streaming app in favor of using Roku technology.

A report in BestAppleTV.com claimed Comcast Cable would bypass Apple TV as well as the tvOS app platform in development in favor of a Roku-designed smart box – similar to one manufactured by Roku for Sky-owned Now TV in the United Kingdom.

Comcast Corp. acquired Sky last year for $39 billion.

Media Play News reported Jan. 25 that Now TV, which was one of Roku’s first OEM clients for streaming media devices, including USB stick technology, is the third-largest OTT video service in the U.K. behind market leader Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, appeared to underscore the move when he said Comcast’s pending AVOD service would incorporate Now TV technology and represented a good alternative for consumers not tethered to pay-TV/SVOD, while posing less of a risk in start-up costs.

“We think this approach has a much better chance to get scale quickly,” Burke said on the fiscal call.

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In a statement, Comcast said the BestAppleTV.com story contained “numerous inaccuracies” and “wrongly conflates” individual business dealings and relationships from Sky, NBC Universal and Comcast Cable.

“To be clear, Comcast Cable is deeply invested in development and innovation of its flagship whole-home platform, Xfinity X1, that is changing the way millions of people watch TV and manage the connected home,” wrote the cabler with 21 million subscribers.

Comcast said Xfinity TV customers can currently access their subscription via the Xfinity Stream app on iOS and Android mobile devices, and on computers and laptops via the Xfinity Stream web portal.

The cabler reiterated that subs can also access their TV subscription via the Xfinity Stream app for Roku devices and Samsung smart TVs (and soon LG and Sony smart TVs as well) or use their Xfinity credentials to authenticate more than 130 networks across more than 20 devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Xbox One and TiVo, among others.

Comcast said it “actively” remains in talks with other device manufacturers to distribute the Xfinity Stream app, “under terms that are mutually agreeable,” through the Xfinity TV Partner Program.

“[The program] continues to enable us to efficiently and effectively expand the range of devices our customers can utilize to access their Xfinity TV subscription,” wrote Comcast.