Xfinity Flex Surpasses 1 Million Devices Deployed

Comcast May 14 announced it has deployed more than 1 million Xfinity Flex devices since the unit’s launch last year. Included with Xfinity Internet (broadband) for free, the device leverages Xfinity X1 technology to deliver video to high-speed Internet-only (non-pay-TV) subscribers.

Dana Strong, president, Xfinity consumer services, said the platform combines access to 200 third-party streaming services such as Peacock, Hulu, CBS All Access, Radio.com and Black News Channel. These services join Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, HBO Now, YouTube, Epix, Starz and Pandora. Flex also affords subs access to AVOD services such as NBCUniversal’s Xumo, Tubi and Pluto TV.

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“Flex was designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of our Internet-only customers,” Strong said.

Last month, NBCU previewed Peacock to Flex subs. Peacock Premium is now available to Xfinity X1 and Flex customers at no extra cost. The service offers over 15,000 hours of shows and movies, and Flex customers can simply say “Peacock” into their voice remote to explore iconic shows and movies, NBC favorites, plus trending news and pop culture updated daily.

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NBCUniversal, Sky Partner on Joint Advertising Platform

NBCUniversal and sister company Sky have launched of an advertising partnership enabling the companies’ original content to be available for purchase through NBCUniversal’s upstart “One Platform.”

Leadership of the new global division will be announced in the coming weeks, and will report into NBCUniversal Chairwoman Linda Yaccarino as well as partner closely with Sky Chief Business Officer Patrick Béhar.

NBCUniversal parent Comcast acquired U.K. satellite TV operator Sky for $39 billion in 2018.

With many consumers stuck at home during mandated government quarantine measures, domestic TV viewership is expected to add 8.3 million viewers in 2020 — the first increase since 2011, according to eMarketer.

With the global coronavirus pandemic upending traditional advertising strategies, NBCUniversal’s One Platform aims to give marketers access to premium content and advanced advertising capabilities that NBCU and Sky each bring to market.

Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky’s combined $24 billion investment in original content ranges from “Saturday Night Live” to “Game of Thrones,” as well international news efforts. NBCUniversal and Sky claim to reach an audience that spans more than half a billion viewers every month in more than 160 countries.

“At a time when lots and lots of companies are slashing their ad budgets, or at least pausing them, now the supply of viewing time or ad inventory exceeds the demand from advertisers to fill it,” Ross Benes, analyst at eMarketer, told CNBC. “It’s great to get people to watch your show, but each viewer is being monetized much lower than they were months ago.”

One Platform hopes to remedy that issue.

Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts, Wife Donate $5 Million For Laptops to Philadelphia Public Schools

With public schools switching to online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts and his wife Aileen have pledged $5 million toward the purchase of laptop computers for school children in Philadelphia.

According to a 2019 School District survey, only about 50% of third- through 12th-grade students have the equipment they need to begin participating in online lessons. Roberts’ donation will support the purchase of 50,000 Chromebooks, which will help ensure that all students who attend the 220 District-led public schools across Philadelphia have the tools they need to learn at home.

“We’re living in an unprecedented time and COVID-19 is presenting our society with new challenges every day,” Aileen and Brian Roberts said in a statement. “When we heard that many Philadelphia students weren’t going to be able to learn from home without laptops, we quickly decided we wanted to help and provide these teachers, parents and students with the technology they need to begin learning online within just a few weeks.”

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The laptops will be distributed along with the estimated 40,000 laptops already in school buildings to students and families. Once the equipment is received at the School District headquarters, it will be dispensed between April 13 and 17. During the interim two weeks, the laptops will be prepared for the students and the Philadelphia School District teachers will be trained to support distance learning.

“The generous gift from Aileen and Brian Roberts and their family will help to transform the learning experience for thousands of Philadelphia’s public school students who will now be able to access online educational resources from home,” said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. “Our public schools belong to all of us and this is a great example of what’s possible when we work together to improve educational supports for all of our young people. I am grateful for their generosity.”

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Students and their families who don’t already have Internet access can get it through any Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Philadelphia. Comcast is currently offering low-income families who don’t already have Internet service two free months through Internet Essentials, which is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed internet adoption program.

Comcast Selling $4 Billion in New Bonds (Debt)

Comcast is taking a fiscal page from Disney’s playbook and not waiting for Congress to bail out its struggling business segments.

The media giant March 25 disclosed it is selling $4 billion in new bonds (long-term debt) that mature in the next five to 20 years.

“We intend to use the net proceeds from the offering … for general corporate purposes,” Comcast said in the filing. The company operates Comcast Cable, satellite TV operator Sky, DreamWorks Animation, NBCUniversal — the latter including Universal Pictures and FandangoNow, among other businesses.

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The funding sale comes the day after Comcast issued a warning to investors that its business segments could have a “material adverse” impact in the short-term — including the first fiscal quarter ending March 31.

NBCUniversal launches the branded Peacock subscription streaming video platform on April 15.

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Comcast Adds Free VOD, SVOD Access to Xfinity, Flex Platforms

Citing an increase of in-home viewing due to social distancing and the coronavirus, Comcast March 25 announced that it has made the VOD catalogs from a series of premium networks and SVOD services available to its Xfinity X1 and Flex customers for free for 30 days — beginning with Showtime, Epix, CuriosityStream, History Vault, Grokker Yoga Fitness & Wellbeing, The Reading Corner and DogTV.

“This is an unprecedented time and we want to be there for our customers to help make the time they’re spending at home easier with free previews from our network, studio and streaming partners,” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video & entertainment at Comcast Cable, said in a statement.

X1 and Flex subs can access the free programming with their voice remote, which spans kids educational content, fitness, and TV & movies.

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Showtime programming includes back episodes of “Billions,” “Homeland,” “Shameless,” “City on a Hill” and “Kidding.”

Epix includes a full catalog of thousands of movies, along with acclaimed original series, such as “Godfather of Harlem,” “Pennyworth,” “War of the Worlds” and “Belgravia,” premiering April 12.

CuriosityStream includes 60 days free of documentaries and series on science, history, wildlife, adventure and travel, including “Ancient Earth” and “The History of Food.”

The whole family is covered with 30 days free of programs for dogs, as well as dog-related programs for all dog lovers with DogTV. Grokker Yoga Fitness & Wellbeing features 30 days free of expert-led video classes in fitness, yoga, meditation and healthy cooking.

History Vault includes 30 days of classic series, documentaries and
specials. From series like Modern Marvels to specials about ancient cultures, HISTORY Vault is the one-stop destination for exploring the past, present and future.

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Kids Room features 30 days free of a wide selection of popular series filled with stories and beloved characters. Popular children’s series, include “Bob the Builder,” “Polly Pocket” and “Strawberry Shortcake.”

The Great Courses Signature Collection includes 30 days free of engaging and educational video lectures from the world’s greatest professors; hundreds of subjects to learn; from photography to psychology, guitar to genetics, or mindful health to a vast exploration of history.

The Reading Corner features 30 days free of reading videos on themes such as spring, holiday, school and nature. For children up to 10 years old. Stories include “Donuts: The Hole Story,” “This Is a Book Full of Monsters” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Xfinity said it plans to open up more preview content from dozens of new networks, studios and streaming partners on a rolling basis over the coming weeks.

In addition, Comcast has undertaken a comprehensive COVID-19 response inclusive of opening Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots across the country to anyone who needs them for free (including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers), pausing data plans, creating a COVID-19 news destination on X1 and Flex, and making its Internet Essentials program free for new families for the first 60 days of enrollment.

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.

IOC Official: 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Likely Postponed

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, arguably the biggest media sporting event of the year, will be postponed likely to next year, according to an IOC official.

IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today March 23 the Games, which are slated for July 24 to Aug. 9, probably won’t happen until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

Japan has more than 1,800 COVID-19 cases, including cases originating aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The modern Summer Olympics have been held consecutively every four year since 1896 — except during World War I and World War II (1916, 1940, 1944).

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Although the IOC has made no official announcement, there have been growing calls from countries’ Olympic committees to postpone the event due to athletes’ concerns. Canada and Australia both announced they would not be sending athletes due to the pandemic that has claimed more than 15,000 lives and infected more than 350,000, according to the World Health Organization. Johns Hopkins University said more than 100,000 of the infected have survived.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who until last weekend stressed the Games would go on as scheduled, began to change his mind as the pandemic expands.

“This decision by IOC is in line with what I have said, about holding the games in their entirety,” Abe told lawmakers over the weekend. “In case this becomes difficult, in order to make the athletes our top priority, we may have no choice but to decide to postpone the Games.”

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The delay is a huge blow to Japan and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, which have poured tens of billions of dollars into staging the event, not including billions more spent on marketing and advertising.

Organizers haven’t commented on the status of the traditional Olympic torch relay, which is slated to start March 26 (without spectators) in the northern part of the country.

Comcast, which has spent billions securing exclusive U.S. broadcast and streaming rights for NBCUniversal to the Games, stands to lose about $1.2 billion in advertising. CEO Brian Roberts has said the company has insurance should the Games be canceled.

NBC Sports plans to stream the games across several of its networks.

Hulu Launching on Comcast Xfinity Flex and X1

Comcast’s Xfinity Flex customers can stream Hulu using the Hulu app on their Flex devices, according to the streaming company.

Xfinity Flex customers new to Hulu will also be able to customize their viewing experience with Hulu features such as Taste Picker and Like and Dislike buttons as well as stay up to date with their favorite shows and movies by adding them to My Stuff.

Current Hulu subscribers can sign in with their Hulu login through the Hulu app on Flex. Flex users new to Hulu can sign up here. Once they have their log-in credentials, they can access Hulu through the app on Flex.

Hulu will also roll out on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 platform within the coming weeks.

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Sky Selling Theatrical Releases in the Home

With the shutdown of theatres worldwide, satellite TV operator Sky has begun offering digital video access to select theatrical releases in the home. The move is the latest among media companies upending traditional distribution channels as consumers face quarantine situations against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Sky, which is owned by Comcast, parent of NBCUniversal, has 24 million customers across seven countries in Europe. It is following a strategy taken by Universal Pictures in the United States, which has begun offering digital retail access to select theatrical movies.

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Sky Store will have a range of NBCU titles available the same day as their global cinema release. They will be priced at £15.99 ($18.99). This is available for Sky+ and Sky Q subscribers. Sky Store digital sales typically include a DVD backup sent in the mail.

The program begins with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour April 6. This is the first time customers have been able to rent NBCUniversal movies as soon as they hit cinemas. On March 20, The Hunt, The Invisible Man and Emma will also be available on-demand on Sky Store, following their recent release in cinemas.

“We’re working hard at Sky to make sure we continue to look after our customers,” Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO of Sky UK and Europe, said in a statement. “We’re also introducing some things to help make life a little easier for anyone at home trying to work, stay connected to loved ones, or keep the family entertained.”

During the ongoing pandemic, Sky will also make it “Go Extra” platform available free to all customers so European households have access to Sky TV on three screens at the same time. Calls to U.K. landlines any time of day will be free for existing Sky Talk customers through the end of April.

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Sky Mobile subscribers will get an extra 10GB data free added to their accounts. Call centers and engineers will prioritize the needs of existing customers to ensure their service keeps running smoothly.

Premium platform Sky Q will soon add over-the-top video platform Disney+ (March 24), in addition to YouTube Kids.