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.

 

Comcast Cable Lost 344,000 Video Subs in 2018

Comcast Cable Jan. 23 disclosed it lost 344,000 pay-TV subscribers in 2018, which was nearly 85% more than the 186,000 subs lost in 2017.

In the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31), Comcast lost 19,000 video subs compared to 38,000 subs in the previous-year period.

The losses underscore ongoing secular changes in the industry as consumers opt for alternative home entertainment distribution channels, including over-the-top video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, and online TV platforms such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now.

Indeed, Xfinity X1, Comcast’s Web-based set-to platform, has added direct access to Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube to keep pay-TV subs.

The subscriber losses also impacted sales of digital movies and TV shows. Video revenue decreased 1.8% to $22.4 billion from $22.8 billion, primarily reflecting a decrease in the number of residential video customers.

Comcast, which doesn’t have standalone online TV or OTT video platforms, does benefit as one of the nation’s largest Internet service providers. The company added 1.23 million high-speed Internet subs in 2018 compared to 1 million net additions in 2017.

High-speed Internet revenue increased 9.3% to $17.1 billion from $15.7 billion, driven by an increase in the number of residential high-speed internet customers and rate adjustments.

Corporate CES Brian Roberts said he was pleased by the “strong” operational and financial results, including the 13th consecutive year of more than 1 million broadband net additions.

In addition, with the closing of the acquisition of British satellite TV operator Sky, Roberts said Comcast has transformed into a global company.

Indeed, Sky revenue increased 2.4% to $5 billion in the fourth quarter. Excluding the impact of currency, revenue increased 5.6%, reflecting higher direct-to-consumer, content and advertising revenue.

Direct-to-consumer revenue increased 4% to $4 billion, driven by improved product penetration for pay-TV, growth in Sky Mobile and Sky Fibre customers, as well as rate adjustments in the U.K.

The quarter’s average direct-to-consumer revenue per customer relationship increased by about 1%. Content revenue increased 35.7% to $363 million, primarily reflecting the wholesaling of sports programming, including exclusive sports rights recently acquired in Italy and Germany, increased penetration of premium sports and movie channels on third party pay-TV networks in the U.K. and monetization of our slate of original programming.

“[We] are excited about its future and the potential of our combined company in 2019 and beyond,” Roberts said in a statement.

 

 

 

Comcast Bows YouTube 4K Videos on Xfinity X1

Comcast Cable has begun enabling Xfinity X1 subscribers to stream 4K video content on a compatible HDTV in their home.

Following recent direct-access 4K agreements with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Google-owned YouTube offers more than 400 hours of original and third-party content uploaded every minute across different formats, with the social video pioneer among the most popular voice commands among subscribers.

YouTube 4K content includes largely scenic nature videos, movie and video game trailers and gaming content. Availability via broadband on X1 marks a significant step in Comcast Cable’s strategy to expand 4K programming choices for subs.

Subs with an X1 voice remote can say “4K videos on YouTube” to launch the library of 4K content available on the YouTube app or they can navigate to the YouTube app via the apps menu and enter a search for 4K videos. YouTube 4K content is denoted by a 4K icon below the video title.

“Today’s announcement follows the successful integration of Netflix 4K into X1 and, earlier this month, the launch of Amazon Prime Video, which gives X1 customers access to the growing library of Prime Video programming in 4K Ultra HD and HDR 4K content,” Brynn Lev, senior director, content services, wrote in a post. “Moving forward, we will continue to look for new ways to give our customers access to the highest-quality programming available.”

Roku Launching Holiday Video ‘Stream-a-thon’

Taking a page from Comcast Cable’s playbook, Roku Dec. 10 announced the pending bow of its first-ever video content “Stream-a-thon,” from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2019.

Registered Roku users will be able to watch complete seasons and movies from third-party sources such as Acorn TV, Adult Swim, Discovery Channel, Epix, Food Network, HGTV, Hopster, NBC, TLC and Travel Channel, among others.

In August, Roku bowed “Featured Free,” offering Roku users a way to find free ad-supported streaming entertainment. The platform includes the latest in-season episodes of top network shows, full past-season and catch-ups that are free and available to browse in a single experience.

The promotion mirrors Comcast’s “Watchathon,” which gives Xfinity subscribers in the Spring week-long access to myriad TV shows from third-party sources, including Netflix and HBO.

“The holidays are the perfect time for new and avid streamers alike to discover, enjoy and share in full seasons of top shows for free,” Matthew Anderson, chief marketing officer at Roku, said in a statement.

The “Stream-a-thon” features the first full-season of “Deep State” from Epix, which is owned by MGM Studios, in addition to full-seasons and episodes from “Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution” and “Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death” (Acorn TV); “Rick and Morty” (Adult Swim); “Storm Chasers” (Discovery); “Diners, Drive-in and Dives” and “Beat Bobby Flay” (Food Network); “Fixer Upper” and “Property Brothers,” (HGTV); “Two Minute Tales” (Hopster); “Making It” and “New Amsterdam” (NBC); “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” (TLC); “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and “Ghost Adventures” (Travel Channel).

“The Roku platform is easy to use, offers content people love and delivers unrivaled value. We’re delighted with the quality of shows and to be working in partnership with some of the biggest and best providers across television,” said Anderson.

Cinedigm’s Dove Channel Launches on Comcast Cable

Cinedigm Nov. 26 announced that its subscription video-on-demand service, Dove Channel, is now available similar to Netflix and YouTube via direct access on Comcast’s broadband-based Xfinity X1.

X1 subscribers can access Dove Channel’s library of family friendly movies, children’s programs, documentaries, and TV series, including new and noteworthy titles such as “A Christmas Kiss,” “1500 Steps,” and “Letters to God,” among others.

Xfinity X1 subscribers can access the service by saying “Dove Channel” into their X1 voice remote control or by finding it within the networks section of Xfinity on Demand. Dove Channel can be added to X1 customers’ service for $4.99 per month and included in the monthly cable bill.

Launched in September 2015, Dove Channel was created to offer programming, including children’s fare, that meets the content standards of The Dove Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage and promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment.

“Cinedigm is pleased to bring our top-tier family-focused content to X1 and to reach even more viewers from coast-to-coast,” Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “Dove Channel offers unique values-based films and programs that are safe for the whole family and Xfinity X1 is the perfect home for this vast library of inspiring content.”

 

 

 

Sky Boss Jeremy Darroch Says He’s ‘Sticking Around’ Euro Pay-TV Operator Following Comcast’s Acquisition

Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of Comcast Corp.’s newly-owned Sky subsidiary, said he plans on remaining at the U.K. satellite TV operator following Comcast’s $40 billion acquisition.

Speaking Oct. 25 on Comcast’s fiscal call, Darroch said he looked forward to leading Sky, which has more than 15 million subscribers, including subsidiaries Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.

“We’re all energized by the next phase of growth and the additional opportunities that being part of Comcast will bring, on top of delivering our existing plans,” he said.

The news seemed to please Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts, who introduced Darroch on the fiscal call. Indeed, for Darroch – who received a $47.4 million golden parachute following the close of the acquisition – not remaining at Sky could have proved a challenge to Comcast’s nascent international strategies.

“We’re really excited and pleased with the [Sky] management team” said Roberts. “We are delighted that Jeremy and many of the team, the senior team, we hope and believe are going to stay with the company.”

With Roberts agreeing to pay more than twice what 21stCentury Fox offered for outstanding interest in Sky, media analysts in the United States have questioned how the deal will be accretive for Comcast shareholders going forward.

“It seems as though they would like investors to forget that Sky is also a satellite TV provider, and satellite video distribution is increasingly becoming obsolete,” Craig Moffett, with MoffettNathanson Research, wrote in a note last month.

 

 

Comcast Q3 Pay-TV Subs Continue to Decline

Comcast Cable maybe slowly embracing third-party over-the-top video service such as Netflix, YouTube and Sling TV, but it continues to jettison pay-TV subscribers.

The cable operator Oct. 25 disclosed it lost 106,000 subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30), and improvement from the 125,000 subs lost in the previous-year period.

In reality, Comcast ended the quarter with 22 million video subs – down 375,000 subs from 22.39 million last year.

At the same time, Comcast is one of the nation’s largest ISPs, adding 334,000 residential broadband customers in the quarter – up 83.5% from 182,000 customer additions last year. The company ended the period with more than 24.7 million residential high-speed Internet customers, compared to 23.5 million customers last year.

It was the best Q3 for broadband additions in 10 years. Indeed, broadband revenue increased 9.6% in the quarter to $4.3 billion. Revenue is up 9.1% to $12.7 billion through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

“Comcast Cable’s pre-tax earnings growth was the fastest in six years, and customer relationship growth accelerated,” Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast Corp., said in a statement.

 

Comcast, Ticketmaster Partner for Kelly Clarkson Concert Tickets

Comcast Cable and Ticketmaster Sept. 18 announced an industry-first integration that enables Xfinity X1 subscribers to find concert tour dates and buy tickets directly on the television through Ticketmaster’s open ticketing platform.

This integration coincides with three-time Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson and her 2019 “Meaning of Life” tour. Beginning today, X1 subs can simply say “Kelly Clarkson Tour” into their “voice remote” to take advantage of a special presale window and see a list of Clarkson’s local performance dates and venues right on the TV.

“Our team is always thinking of new ways to reach more fans by extending Ticketmaster’s open platform,” Dan Armstrong, SVP & GM, distributed commerce for Ticketmaster, said in a statement. “This partnership with Comcast is a groundbreaking way to discover events and buy tickets.”

In addition to this new ticketing capability, the Kelly Clarkson experience on X1 features all things related to the artist, including the ability to stream her music right on the TV via Pandora, watch her music videos, appearances on NBC’s “The Voice,” where she will return as a coach for Season 15, and clips from previous tours, access her Web series, “A Minute and a Glass of Wine,” and more.

“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,” said Nancy Spears, VP, strategy & execution at Comcast Cable.

Through Sept. 23, all Xfinity customers have access to a special presale window and can purchase their tickets via xfinity.com. Ticketmaster and X1 will continue to provide localized ticket information throughout the general admission sale starting Sept. 24.

Kelly Clarkson’s Meaning of Life tour kicks off Jan. 24th, 2019 in Oakland, Calif. The 28-city trek will see Clarkson playing arenas across the United States on her first headline run in three years. She will be joined by special guests Grammy-nominee Kelsea Ballerini and last season’s winner of NBC’s The Voice, Team Kelly’s Brynn Cartelli.

 

 

Comcast: College Students Love to Stream TV Content

Comcast Cable Sept. 13 disclosed data it said shows live is the preferred method of viewing “Xfinity on Campus” video content for college students, followed by video-on-demand and recorded. Students also prefer viewing on laptops over mobile devices and in particular during primetime on Thursday and Sunday.

Xfinity On Campus offers more than 100 live channels, including every major broadcast network, as well as channels like AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX and MTV through Comcast’s Xfinity Stream app and portal.

The service, which includes access to live and on-demand programming from 100+ broadcast, cable and premium channels anywhere on a college campus has doubled in size in just two years and is now available at more than 130 schools nationwide.

Recent additions include Boston College, The University of Alabama in Huntsville and University of California Santa Cruz.

“Tens of thousands of students use Xfinity on Campus every day to watch TV and that’s enabled us to identify some interesting viewing trends, like the significant portion of live programming college students are watching, including sports, scripted drama and reality TV,” Mike Gatzke, VP, video subscription services, at Comcast Cable. “[The platform] is helping us learn a lot about what, how and when students watch, and ultimately enabling us to further enhance and improve our service to offer them the best entertainment experience across devices, anywhere on campus.”

The data was compiled from January through June 2018 and showed:

Live TV Matters: 44 percent of total video consumption was live, followed by video on demand at 37 percent, and DVR at 19 percent.

TGISunday and TGIThursdays: Students spend the most time watching TV on Sundays and Thursdays, while spending the least amount on Saturdays.  And 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. is still the most popular viewing time across all days of the week.

Biggest Screen Wins: Even without TVs, students still revert to the biggest screen available; twice as much consumption happens on computers and laptops verses mobile devices.

Sports Reign: Live sports dominated the top 10 most-watched programs, fueled by the NBA and NFL playoffs, the Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, and the NCAA basketball tournament.

 Must-See TV: Among the most popular live programs were “This is Us,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Bachelor,” “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation,” “Riverdale,” “The Good Doctor,” “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” “Grown-ish,” “Modern Family” and “Law & Order: SVU.”

 

 

Comcast Cable Loses 136,000 Video Subs in Q2

Comcast Cable July 26 reported it shed 136,000 video subscribers in the second quarter (ended June 30), up more than 200% from video sub loss of 45,000 during the previous-year period. The company lost 93,000 video subs in the first quarter.

Comcast ended the period with 22.1 million subs, compared to 22.5 million last year.

Video revenue decreased 1.9% to $5.6 billion from $5.7 billion, primarily reflecting a decrease in the number of residential video customers. Through the first-half of the year, cable revenue is down 1.4% to $11.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year.

Meanwhile, reflecting increases in cord-cutting and consumers shifting to over-the-top video entertainment consumption, Comcast broadband subscribers increased 61% to 226,000 from 140,000 last year to end the quarter with 24.4 million subs.

When factoring in 34,000 new broadband business subscriptions, Comcast saw its largest quarterly high-speed Internet sub growth in 10 years.

“These strong customer metrics were balanced with robust [pre-tax earnings] growth, fueled by high-speed Internet and business services,” Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast Corp., said in a statement.

Separately, Comcast said it spent $23 million in the quarter on costs related to the aborted acquisition of 20thCentury Fox Film and ongoing purchase attempt of British satellite TV operator Sky.

Roberts on the July 26 fiscal call, said the cabler dropped its pursuit of Fox assets largely because of escalating costs.

“We thought we couldn’t build enough shareholder value by making the price that it seemed, in our judgement, to be able to buy it at, which was increasing,” said Roberts.

The executive said the company remains on track to acquire Sky, which he characterized as a “unique” fit and a good use of corporate capital.

“It will fit well,” Roberts said.