Comcast Offering Xfinity Flex (Including Movies Anywhere) Free to Subscribers

Comcast Cable earlier this year launched Xfinity Flex, a $5 monthly add-on streaming platform enabling broadband-only subscribers easier access to online content apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now, among others.

Comcast is now offering Flex free to broadband subs, providing new and existing customers with the ability to access third-party streaming services and manage their connected home devices right on the TV.

Xfinity Flex leverages X1 technology with an Internet-connected, 4K UHD streaming TV device, Xfinity voice remote, a redesigned guide, and more than 10,000 free movies and TV shows.

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The Flex set-top box is included, along with the Xfinity Voice Remote, as part of an Xfinity Internet-only subscription. Additional boxes will be available to lease for $5 per month per box (limit of two boxes per customer).

“Xfinity Flex gives customers a radically simple, aggregated television experience that personalizes their streaming choices across a sea of apps and services,” Matt Strauss, EVP, Xfinity Services, Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

Xfinity Flex’s myriad features include:

• A personalized guide with universal voice control, featuring a new home page with live, immersive tiles that help customers quickly get back into what they were watching;

• A new “Free to Me” destination where customers can easily browse more than 10,000 free movies and TV shows, and live streaming including live news and sports, from networks such as ESPN3, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Xumo, Cheddar, YouTube, Sky News, in addition to all the content included with their streaming subscriptions from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Showtime, EPIX, Sling International and soon Peacock and Hulu;

• A new grid guide that compiles available live programming across networks and apps, and a curated destination for everything new to the platform;

• The ability to rent and purchase thousands of movies and shows from the digital store and access their digital lockers across platforms by pairing their account with home entertainment studios’ Movies Anywhere;

• The ability to browse and listen to music from Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and XITE using the voice remote;

• The ability to upgrade to Xfinity TV on X1 from the guide later this year, which offers hundreds of live channels, tens of thousands of on demand titles, and a cloud DVR;

• Xfinity Flex also provides customers with an easy way to better manage, control and enjoy the connected home by enabling them to easily access their entertainment, find their wi-fi password, see what devices are connected to their network, set parental controls, and evenpause wi-fi access on their home network;

• Subs also can use voice control to access their camera feeds, arm or disarm their home security system and find their Xfinity Mobile phone — all on the TV.

“Today’s Internet customers need more than speed … simplified control of their connected home, and the best streaming experience,” Strauss said. “With Xfinity xFi and Xfinity Flex, we are including all of that and more with our Internet service, all in one place, on the best screen in the home.”

NBC Sports Gold SVOD Service Added to Xfinity X1 Platform

NBC Sports Group, the standalone subscription streaming video service, Sept. 3 announced it will be rolling out today over the Internet on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms.

NBC Sports Gold offers streaming access to PGA Tour Live, Premier League soccer, Premier League Match Day, IndyCar, cycling, track & field , Premier Lacrosse League, speed skating, rugby, rugby World Cup, Supercross, Snow (consisting of seven Olympic winter sports), figure skating, pro motocross, and supercross + pro motocross package.

“[This] will expand our reach to new audiences and continue to make our extensive collection of live sports and content more accessible to even more fans,” Portia Archer, VP, direct-to-consumer services, NBC Sports, said in a statement.

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Nancy Spears, VP, business operations and strategy, Comcast Cable, said the intracompany agreement is based on providing X1 subscribers easy access in one place.

NBC Sports Gold currently provides 15 separate domestic subscriptions to Xfinity customers, and offers commercial-free coverage of live and on-demand events not available anywhere else on TV.

Xfinity subs can launch NBC Sports Gold and access any subscriptions purchased by saying “NBC Sports Gold” into the Xfinity Voice Remote, or by finding NBC Sports Gold in the Apps menu on X1 and Flex, Comcast’s recently launched service for Internet-only customers.

NBC Sports Gold is powered by Playmaker Media, NBC Sports Digital’s technology service which provides end-to-end support for companies in need of best-in-class live streaming and video on demand solutions.

DEG Announces Board for 2019-20

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group on Aug. 9 announced its incoming board of directors at the start of its 23rd year as one of the home entertainment industry’s leading trade associations.

DEG’s voting member companies elected the new board to serve for the 2019-20 fiscal year (Aug. 1 – July 31). New board members include Pedro Gutierrez of Microsoft Corp., Cheryl Goodman of Sony Electronics and Erol Kalafat of Amazon Studios.

Amazon Studios is a new member company represented on the
DEG board for the first time.

The DEG also has added two additional companies to its membership: Row8, a transactional digital movie service that allows viewers to stop a movie they don’t like and choose a new one at no additional charge, and Snap Inc., parent company of social networking app Snapchat.

The Officers of the DEG board were elected to a two-year term in 2018 and will continue to serve through July 2020. Officers include Chair Matt Strauss of Comcast Cable; Vice Chair Sofia Chang of WarnerMedia Distribution (HBO); CFO Bob Buchi of Paramount Home Entertainment; Secretary Jim Wuthrich of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment & Games, and Chair Emeritus Mike Dunn, formerly of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“At a time when our industry is rapidly changing, the board of directors strives to produce deliverables that meet the needs of the industry at this dynamic time, such as DEG’s D2C Alliance, formed at the start of the year,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of the DEG.

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Comcast Upping HD Video Charge for Mobile Video

Comcast Cable has begun charging new mobile customers a $20 surcharge for HD video resolution during peak network congestion.

Dubbed “HD Pass,” the upgrade is for Xfinity Mobile unlimited lines (720p on phone and 1080p on tablets) to access faster speeds during concerts and sporting events. Without the upgrade, video speed will slow to 480p resolution during peak usage times.

Comcast said unlimited subscribers would continue to pay $45 monthly per line for cellular data. Customers who subscribed to Xfinity Mobile prior to the launch of the new plans will have no change to their service at this time.

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New subs will have data speeds slowed during times of network congestion — a common practice in the wireless industry. With 80% of mobile data traffic traveling over Wi-Fi, not cellular, Comcast recommends subs utilize Wi-Fi whenever possible.

“It’s a natural evolution of our service that puts each individual in control of building the mobile data plan that works for them — whether to switch data plans mid-billing cycle based on usage or turn on HD to watch a show and then immediately turn it off to lower data consumption,” Rui Costa, VP of product management and customer experience for Xfinity Mobile, said in a statement.

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.