Comcast Adds Hulu + Live TV to Xfinity Flex

Comcast July 22 announced that its broadband-only Xfinity Flex subscribers now have access to Disney’s Hulu + Live TV, the largest online TV platform with more than 4 million subs.

Existing Hulu + Live TV subs can access their programming from within Flex’s existing Hulu app by saying “Hulu” into their Xfinity Voice Remote. After signing in with their credentials, they’ll have access to their full subscription – including dozens of live channels (and associated on demand programming) spanning sports, news, kids and entertainment, Hulu originals, exclusive series, and more. In the coming weeks, new customers will be able to sign-up for the service via their Flex devices.

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“The addition of Hulu + Live TV on Flex adds tremendous value for our internet customers, giving them access to more of their streaming content and subscriptions alongside a growing catalog of free programming – all seamlessly integrated into one voice-enabled and easy-to-navigate experience,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of Video and Entertainment, Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

Hulu + Live TV joins a growing list of linear streaming services available on Flex, including Xfinity Stream, Sling TV, Peacock, HBO Max, Paramount+, Xumo and Pluto.

NBCUniversal and Roku Partner for Tokyo Olympics Streaming

NBCUniversal and Roku July 20 announced a partnership to bring the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics to streamers on the Roku platform in the United States.

For the first time, Roku is creating direct access to NBCU’s 5,500 hours of streaming coverage of the Summer Games. Roku users will be able to access in-depth coverage of the Games via the NBC Sports or Peacock channels on Roku devices starting July 20 through August 8.

“As this is Peacock’s first Olympics, we saw a great opportunity to bring the games to life across the Roku platform,” Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships for direct-to-consumer at NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “This experience on Roku makes NBC Olympics content unmissable for streamers.”

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NBCUniversal previously announced that it will present 7,000 hours of coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer across its multiple platforms.

“Streaming has fundamentally changed the way we come together for news, sports and entertainment today and nothing combines these moments together better and on a bigger scale than the Olympics,” said Tedd Cittadine, VP of content partnerships at Roku.

Specifically, Roku users will be offered a dedicated left-side menu on the home screen starting on July 20. The experience will be available on supported devices. Ahead of the Games, a countdown clock will track the time remaining to the Opening Ceremony and users will have access to free Olympics-related content, as well as a quick informational video on how to watch the Games on their Roku devices.

Once the Games begin, the countdown clock will be replaced with a medal tracker. Users will be able to stream free daily highlights, get access to live shows, condensed replays and highlights for free through Peacock. Users can watch live events through NBC Sports.

Comcast, ViacomCBS Bosses Reportedly Met to Discuss International Streaming Pact

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone and CEO Bob Bakish reportedly met recently to discuss partnering in an international streaming video venture.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the executives met at the end of June in New York to discuss possible scenarios in which the two media giants could partner in advancing their respective streaming platforms.

Shari Redstone

Comcast’s NBCUniversal launched the Peacock SVOD/AVOD platform last summer, while ViacomCBS transitioned CBS All Access into Paramount+ in March. Both platforms have international aspirations in an attempt to remain competitive with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

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Bob Bakish

Working together could benefit the companies as Comcast’s Roberts has publicly expressed a desire to find business partners for international expansion. Paramount+ plans to operate in 45 countries by 2022.

Netflix has seen the bulk of its subscriber growth originate outside the United States, while one-third of Disney+ subs come from India. Comcast also owns streaming service Now TV in the United Kingdom, operated by its Sky satellite TV subsidiary.

Regardless, strange bedfellows is indeed a possibility considering that since its launch, Peacock has generated 45 million sign-ups, but reportedly only about 10 million paying subscribers. ViacomCBS in May disclosed that its Paramount+, Showtime OTT and BET+ platforms had a combined paying sub base of 35.9 million.

By comparison, Netflix had 208 million subs at the end of March, a tally that could be closer to 210 million through the streamer’s fiscal second quarter, ended June 30. Prime Video touted 175 million subs two months ago, while Disney+ tops 103 million.

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 Seeking to Jumpstart Peacock Sub Growth via Connected TVs

Comcast reportedly is working with Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Walmart to market a line of connected televisions featuring the Peacock app, among others.

The media giant reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups through the first quarter (ended March 31). While the tally may seem large considering the AVOD/SVOD platform’s launch just nine months prior, the number of actual paying subs (10 million, according to The Walt Street Journal) suggests the service needs some help.

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Peacock will figure prominently next month during the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics, streaming some marquee events live — to paid subscribers.

Increasing that paid base — at a time when rivals Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ have a combined 450+ million subs — has become a major goal for Comcast senior management.

Speaking May 26 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, CFO Michael Cavanagh shed further light on the metrics, saying about one-third (or 13.8 million) of sign-ups use Peacock on a monthly basis. How many of them are paying a subscription remains unclear.

“We certainly would like to see more signups, more hours used,” Cavanagh said, adding the platform remains a work-in-progress convincing users to stream live sports (Premier League soccer), original sitcoms such as “Rutherford Falls,” “The Office” re-runs and live news going forward.

Earlier this month, NBCUniversal and Samsung announced that Peacock would available on Samsung Smart TVs. The partnership is noticeable since Samsung markets its own branded ad-supported streaming video platform.

“Samsung is a powerful platform and we are excited to bring Peacock to millions of their dedicated streamers across the country,” said Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships for Peacock.

Indeed, Comcast wants to use Peacock as lure to entice CE manufacturers to incorporate the platform as a conduit for third-party apps linked to the internet, similar to what Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast market.

The Journal reports that under the project name “PlatCo,” the cable TV giant is working to develop a line of connected TVs manufactured by China’s Hisense and sold in Walmart stores under the chain’s onn brand. Walmart also works with Roku for onn-branded soundbars.

“We’re learning as we go [on Peacock],” Cavanagh said. “And that is shaping our plans as we go forward. We’ve brought content production back. Working on getting Peacock on other platforms.”

NBCUniversal Aiming for 7,000 Hours of Tokyo Olympics Coverage

Japan may only have a small minority of its citizens vaccinated, with a majority opposed to the country hosting next month’s delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, but that’s not stopping NBCUniversal from pulling out all the stops to broadcast and stream the games.

The media giant June 7 announced it would broadcast and stream upwards of 7,000 hours of coverage throughout the quadrennial spectacle taking place July 23 to Aug. 8 across myriad properties, including NBC, USA, CNBC, NBCSN and Peacock.

“We are going to deliver the most comprehensive — and accessible — coverage for any sports event in history,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. “The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these games and our times.”

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NBCUniversal and corporate parent Comcast have spent billions of dollars securing U.S. distribution rights to the Olympics through 2032.

Despite press claiming most Japanese were opposed to holding the games due to the pandemic, a new poll from Yomiuri Shimbun claimed that 50% of respondents want the games to be held this summer, with another 48% saying the event should be canceled. The paper’s previous poll had found 59% of respondents opposed to the games taking place. The telephone poll, conducted over three days from June 4 to 6, found 26% of the 1,070 respondents want the Olympics to be held without spectators, while 24% favored venues with limited seating.

Comcast CFO: We Would Like to See More Peacock Sign-Ups

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh

Since launching the Peacock streaming platform last July, NBCUniversal has been coy about how many subscribers the service actually has. Corporate parent Comcast reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups through the end of the fiscal period ended March 31. But that tally is largely window dressing since the platform affords users with a free ad-supported option with limited content; a $4.99 monthly option with ads; and a $9.99 ad-free tier.

Speaking May 26 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh shed some further light on the metrics, saying about one-third (or 13.8 million) of sign-ups use Peacock on a monthly basis. How many of them are paying a subscription remains unclear.

“We certainly would like to see more signups, more hours used,” Cavanagh said, adding the platform remains a work-in-progress convincing users to stream live sports (Premier League soccer), original sitcoms such as “Rutherford Falls,” “Friends” re-runs and live news going forward.

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With Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ announcing monthly paid subscribers tallies of 207 million, 175 million and 103 million, respectively, Peacock has a subscriber gap of sorts to bridge. Indeed, Hulu, in which Comcast owns a 33% stake, ended the most-recent fiscal period with almost 38 million subs — 41.6 million when including online TV service Hulu + Live TV.

“We’re learning as we go [on Peacock],” Cavanagh said. “And that is shaping our plans as we go forward. We’ve brought content production back. Working on getting Peacock on other platforms.”

Cavanagh says NBCUniversal has the personnel and industry contacts in place to make Peacock grow ands thrive.

“By no means is streaming easy, for anybody,” said the executive. “I don’t mean to say that we have it all figured out. We’ll continue to view the world in streaming through a [strategic] lense. It’s early days.”

Cavanagh said the big bets being placed by media companies on global SVOD do not represent a path of success for everybody. On the heels of AT&T spinning off a minority stake in WarnerMedia, which includes HBO Max, and Amazon’s announced $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, media reports suggested Comcast chairman Brian Roberts had been interested in both WarnerMedia and MGM — the latter for about $6 billion.

Cavanagh said the cable giant has no immediate plans to jump into the mergers & acquisition market.

“We’re playing our own hand,” he said. “Scale is a word that requires some discussion. Do we have the advantages that we need? We like the portfolio of the businesses we have. We like the hand we have without M&A, but we’ll obviously do what’s right for shareholders as time passes.”

CEO: Comcast Added 1 Million Broadband Subs Annually for Past 15 Years

A silver lining to pay-TV operators in the burgeoning over-the-top video ecosystem has been the the requisite need for high-speed Internet to stream Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Peacock into homes and on portable devices.

Comcast, the largest cable TV operator in the country, has seen its pay-TV subscriber base hemorrhage members — more than 1.5 million in 2020. At the same time, the cabler has added record numbers of broadband subs — 461,000 in the first quarter, ended March 31. It ended the period with more than 31 million broadband subs, compared with 19.3 million video subs.

Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson

Speaking May 12 on the virtual MoffettNathanson 8th Annual Media & Communications Summit,  Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said the company has added more than 1 million high-speed Internet subs per year for the past 15 years — despite having 40% of its customer footprint beset with competing services.

“It’s a very competitive environment,” Watson said, adding that offering a variety of broadband options, including data speeds, to consumers helps.

“One of the things missed is that yes, most of [our] customers are 200 megabits and above, but we have a wide variety of options,” he said. “And we’ll compete in every segment we go up against.”

Watson said the $3.2 billion in broadband stimulus from the CARES Act available today for the first time for households affected by the pandemic would not have a material impact on Comcast’s connectivity business going forward.

The “Emergency Broadband Benefit” is a federal government program designed to help eligible households pay for higher speed Internet service during the COVID-19 crisis. The program could compete with Comcast’s signature digital equity initiative — Internet Essentials — the nation’s largest broadband adoption program. In 10 years, Comcast claims it has helped connect 10 million low-income Americans to high-speed internet at home, most for the very first time.

“We’re excited and have teams ready to take orders [for monthly service as low as $9.99, which includes a modem],” he said, adding that Comcast has redoubled efforts keeping public schools and libraries connected with broadband.

“We think it’s a good opportunity as well,” Watson said. “We’ll go where the customer wants to go.”

Comcast: Video Consumption Rose Three Hours Weekly in 2020

Comcast said video was the number one traffic driver for its Internet subscribers last year, accounting for 71% of all downstream traffic over the company’s network — a growth of 70% from 2019. Across the cabler’s entire entertainment portfolio, including Xfinity X1, Flex and the Stream app, viewers watched about three hours more per week than before the pandemic.

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Streaming saw the biggest viewing gains on Xfinity platforms in 2020, fueled in part by the launch of more than 70 new apps and channels, including HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock and CBS All Access/Paramount+.

Overall, OTT video viewing was up 73% year-over-year on X1 and Flex. Comcast also saw continued adoption of OTT programming on X1, with 78% of subscribers accessing OTT apps on the platform monthly, up from 68% last year. And of those subs, nearly 80% were using two or more apps monthly.

Ad-supported Flex content (for Comcast’s broadband-only subs) underscored the value of “free” programming, in addition to easy discoverability of content. The company said the addition of Peacock Premium at no additional cost, accounted for more than 50% of total viewing on Flex, with Peacock, Xumo, Pluto and Tubi routinely being among the most-viewed apps on the platform.

Finally, even though most of today’s programming is available on-demand, the value of traditional linear TV should not be understated, according to the nation’s largest pay-TV operator. Despite a significant decrease in the number of live sports and other events during the pandemic, Comcast said it still saw an increase in traditional linear program viewing year-over-year. Additionally, the cabler realized data that suggested streamers value the lean-back experience of linear TV.

“The live guide on Flex, which as of this year brings in the linear channels from services like Peacock, Xumo and Pluto into one integrated guide, is the second-most-viewed destination on Flex behind the home screen,” read the report.

Comcast ‘Watchathon’ Content Extravaganza Returns April 27-May 3 for X1 and Flex Subscribers

Comcast April 23 announced the pending return of its “Watchathon” week-long event affording Xfinity X1 cable and Flex broadband-only subscribers access to proprietary and third-party pay-TV and SVOD sources such as Hulu and HBO Max, among others.

The ninth annual promotion includes every episode of the first three seasons of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” ahead of the fourth season premiering April 28, as well as Hulu originals such as A Teacher and Palm Springs.

Max, including the entire HBO library, features “The Nevers,””Mare of Easttown,” starring Kate Winslet, and all of “Game of Thrones” on demand, and for the first time, a sampling of several Max Originals such as “The Flight Attendant” and the first season of “Love Life.

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The full AMC+ on-demand catalog will be available during the week, including “The Walking Dead” universe and exclusive specials ad-free, “Gangs of London,” and the AMC+ original “Spy City.

Premium networks such as Viacom CBS’s Showtime, Lionsgate’s Starz and MGM’s Epix will make their full on demand catalog available throughout the week, giving customers access to top shows and content such as the Starz’s “Outlander,” Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem” and Showtime drama “City on a Hill,” among many others.

“Our customers are streaming more content than ever on our entertainment platforms — up 73% year over year — and this year’s Watchathon is a great opportunity to highlight the breadth and depth of everything we offer across both X1 and Flex,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment, said in a statement.

Additionally, X1 and Flex customers also can sample full catalogs of some of popular niche SVODs such as Acorn TV, History Vault, Lifetime Movie Club, Hallmark Movies Now, Here TV and Kidstream.

This year’s event also offers thousands of hours of multicultural content with access to services such as Kocowa, the video streaming platform that specializes in delivering mainstream Korean TV dramas, variety shows and K-Pop shows; Brown Sugar, the SVOD service featuring one of the largest collections of African-American movies; and Pantaya, which features a varied selection of Spanish-language movies on a single service.

Content includes:

  • Seasons one and two of “The Penthouse,” Korea’s K-drama. Viewers get a peek of how the affluent live in Korea’s Hera Palace, a luxury apartment building, and follow the stories of three ambitious women.
  • Eve’s Bayou, the award-winning 1997 American horror drama film written and directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring and produced by Samuel L. Jackson. The film was recently selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
  • Pantaya’s original series “La Negociadora,” starring Barbara Mori as Eugenia Velazco, a hostage negotiator and renowned criminal attorney haunted by her past and her criminal father.