Comcast Expecting ‘Material Adverse’ Impact on Business

With its amusement parks business shuttered, Hollywood movies on hiatus and Olympics coverage postponed, Comcast issued a warning to investors that its myriad business segments could have “material adverse” impact in the short-term — including the first quarter ending March 31.

The warning mirrors what The Walt Disney Co. is going through, with some observers speculating Bob Iger’s sudden decision to hand over CEO duties to Bob Chapek revolved largely around his realization of what was in store financially for the Mouse House.

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Comcast Treasurer William Dordelman, in the filing, said the company has closed all theme parks, and delayed Universal Pictures’ distribution of films both domestically and internationally, in addition to the disruption in production and availability of movies and television programming in the United States and globally, postponement of sports events, including the Olympics, and suspension of entertainment content production.

Dordelman said the global situation will “materially exacerbate” Sky’s previously deteriorating economic environment and advertising market in the U.K. and Europe.

“Our Comcast Cable business, while our network performs well to meet the challenge of business and schooling from home, will not be unaffected either as economic stress impacts our residential and business services customer base,” he wrote.

The CFO expects the “ultimate significance” of the impact of COVID-19 on businesses will vary, but will generally depend on the extent of governmental measures affecting day to day life and the length of time that such measures remain in place to respond to the virus.

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Dordelman said it is impossible to predict the extent and duration and the degree to which supply and demand for Comcast products and services, including advertising, will be affected.

“This uncertainty makes it challenging for management to estimate the future performance of our businesses, particularly over the near to medium term. However, the impact of COVID-19 could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations over the near to medium term,” he wrote.

Comcast Offering Free Wi-Fi Access During Coronavirus Pandemic

Comcast, one of the nation’s largest ISPs, March 13 announced it is making available free access to its Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots nationwide, among other services, over the next 60 days during coronavirus pandemic. The cable giant is also suspending all data cap limits for subscribers during this period.

Hot spot access will be available to anyone, including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. To find a local Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spot, click here. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser.

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The company said it would also not cancel a subscriber’s Internet service or assess late fees if the sub contacts Comcast informs the service he/she can’t pay their bill during this period. Comcast said it would work with subs offering flexible payment options, in addition to finding other solutions.

“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the Internet — for education, work, and personal health reasons,” Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a statement. “Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the same belief that it’s our Company’s responsibility to step up and help out.”

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Comcast Acquires AVOD Service Xumo

Comcast Feb. 25 announced the acquisition of Xumo, the ad-supported streaming service based in Irvine, Calif.

Xumo will continue to operate as an independent business inside of Comcast Cable.

Xumo offers free, live and on-demand streaming entertainment, news, sports and more, organized in a channel guide, and features more than 190 genre-grouped channels. Xumo’s multi-screen network of distribution partners include major smart television brands, the Comcast release noted.

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“The talented team at Xumo has created a successful, growing, and best-in-class set of streaming capabilities,” read the release. “We are excited for this team to join Comcast and look forward to supporting them as they continue to innovate and develop their offerings.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

 

Another Cable TV Operator Switching to Streaming Video

The migration from pay-TV to over-the-top video among distributors is gaining momentum.

Gigabit Minnesota, a regional pay-TV operator near Minneapolis, is getting out of the TV distribution business. In an acknowledgment of changing market forces toward streaming video, Gigabit has begun informing its 10,000 customers that it would cease distributing linear TV on Jan. 31.

In a statement, Gigabit cited increased carriage fees from content holders for the decision to focus on high-speed Internet service and help facilitate access to third-party online TV services such as Sling TV and Philo TV, among others.

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“The TV business is changing,” the company said. “This [content] cost increase makes our TV service just way too expensive so we’re going to be leaving [the business],” the company said.

The move follows a North Kansas pay-TV operator that announced it would switch toward broadband distribution and away from linear TV. Major pay-TV operators such as Comcast Cable continue to hemorrhage subscribers, including 149,000 subs in the most-recent fiscal period.

Gigabit, like Rainbow Communications in Kansas, is seeking to direct customers to online TV platforms, in addition to SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney-owned Hulu.

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It offers myriad high-speed Internet plans, including fibre-optic, priced from $69.95 for 500 Mbps. Indeed, Comcast said it added more than 400,000 broadband subs in Q4, and 1.4 million subs in 2019.

Comcast Q3 Video Sub Loss Balloons to 238,000

Comcast Cable Oct. 24 reported it lost 238,000 video subscribers in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The company lost 95,000 video subs in the previous-year period.

The cable operator, along with other traditional linear TV distributors, continues to face secular challenges as consumers migrate away from the traditional cable programming package.

For the nine-months of the fiscal year thus far, the cabler has jettisoned more than 550,000 video subs, compared to 325,000 subs during the same period last year.

As a result of growing OTT consumption, Comcast Corp. unit NBC Universal is launching branded SVOD service, Peacock, early next year.

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Comcast added 379,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, up 13.4% from 334,000 net broadband additions in the previous-year period. The uptick in broadband subs didn’t go unnoticed at the corporate level.

“Cable had its highest third quarter broadband net additions in 10 years, which drove its best quarterly net additions in total customer relationships on record,” chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement.

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.