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 ‘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.

Comcast CFO: Flex Streaming Media Device Helped Jumpstart Peacock Launch

When Comcast launched the Xfinity Flex streaming media device in 2019, the strategy was to market an in-house product for broadband-only customers that could compete against Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV as a conduit for over-the-top video distribution.

Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh

Last year as NBCUniversal rolled out the Peacock hybrid subscription streaming, ad-supported video platform, negotiation issues kept the service off both Roku and Fire TV at launch. While availability of the Peacock app on Roku has been resolved, many of the platform’s 33 million sign-ups occurred due to Flex, according to CFO Mike Cavanagh.

Speaking March 10 on the virtual Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, Cavanagh said 3 million Flex devices have been licensed to Xfinity subs. Plans call to add additional services onto the device, including third-party apps.

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“Video is changing from what it once was, and we’re moving to a streaming world for television” Cavanagh said. “Our broadband pipe is the best product to consume video.”

Comcast added 1.94 million high-speed Internet subscribers in 2020 to end the year with 28.3 million subs — making the erstwhile cable TV company the largest single ISP in the country.

“Not everyone, as we know given all the forces in the media market place, want to have the traditional cable bundle,” Cavanagh said, admitting Comcast for years fought that consumer sentiment.

Indeed, the cabler in 2017 embraced the new world order in dramatic fashion when CEO Brian Roberts publicly embraced longtime nemesis Netflix, affording the SVOD behemoth direct access to Xfinity subscribers.

“We clearly embraced where the world’s going,” Cavanagh said, adding that the Flex device enabled the company to enhance the existing cloud-based Xfinity set-top box for the streaming-centric consumer. More importantly, Flex was launched to reduce churn 15% to 20% among broadband-only subs versus a broadband customer without the device.

“Many people were worried we’d chase holding onto a video bundle even if it went upside down on us economically,” he said. “We are very eager to continue to super-serve the [pay-TV] segment of the market that values the full bundle … but if it’s not what you’re interested in, Flex gives us the same ability to get the same churn reduction benefit.”

Cavanagh said Flex ultimately becomes another platform providing video entertainment choices to subscribers.

“That can’t be a bad thing [as] 70% of Internet activity use is video entertainment consumption,” he said.

HBO Max App Comes to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex

WarnerMedia and Comcast Cable Dec. 15 announced the rollout of the HBO Max app on cloud-based Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms, providing Xfinity subscribers with direct access to Max’s full portfolio of original series and programming.

X1 and Flex customers will be able to access the Max app over the Internet by saying “HBO Max” into the Xfinity Voice Remote or, for example, by saying the name of a desired title (like, “The Flight Attendant”). Xfinity subs will also be able to find Max content library integrated throughout the X1 and Flex, including in current and evergreen collections such as “Best of 2020,” “Kids and Family,” “Black Film & TV” and more.

The launch on Xfinity comes ahead of the feature film release Wonder Woman 1984 starring Gal Gadot debuting on Max and in theaters on Christmas Day. Wonder Woman 1984 will be available in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos to Xfinity customers on supported X1 and Flex devices.

“Since launching HBO Max, our teams have worked closely to deliver a Max experience that would provide more frictionless access to Xfinity X1 and Flex customers,” Jennifer Mirgorod, head of sales and account management, WarnerMedia Distribution, said in a statement.

Cloud-based X1 provides subs with a comprehensive library of entertainment on one platform with thousands of choices — aggregating live TV, on-demand content, and third-party streaming apps from a collection of networks and streaming services. Xfinity Flex is a 4K streaming device included with Xfinity Internet that extends features of X1 to customers who only subscribe to Comcast’s high-speed Internet.

In addition to the release of Wonder Woman 1984, subs will have access to a wide array of programming debuting on Max this month, including the exclusive holiday special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, a new “Euphoria” special episode starring Emmy-winning actress Zendaya, Steven Soderbergh’s new comedy film Let Them All Talk, the third season of “Summer Camp Island,” and four-part docuseries “Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults.” Top films like The Shawshank Redemption, The Photograph, Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2, Gladiator, Meet Me in St. Louis and Demolition Man also premiere this month.

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January will bring the second “Euphoria” special episode, “Search Party” season four, a new season of “Selena + Chef,” the entire “Gossip Girl” library, season one of “Snowpiercer,” The Alienist: Angel of Darkness and The King of Staten Island. Additionally, as previously announced, each film in Warner Bros. Picture Group’s 2021 slate will debut on HBO Max in the U.S. concurrently with its theatrical release and will be available to stream exclusively for one month.

“The addition of the Max app is another example of how we make it easier for customers to find their favorite live, on demand or streamed entertainment,” said Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment in Comcast Cable.

Comcast Launches Interactive Bilingual Election News Platform on X1 and Flex

With the national elections heating up and general news viewership on Xfinity platforms up 38% from the same time period last year, Comcast Aug. 18 is launching Election Central, now available on X1 and Flex — the latter a broadband based non-cable online TV service.

Election Central is designed to help subscribers access the latest information on voting in their state via their Xfinity Voice Remote and makes all the latest election news and happenings available in one place in both English and Spanish.

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Additionally, X1 and Flex customers can say “How to vote” or “Cómo votar” into the Xfinity Voice Remote to find general voting information such as how to register, how to vote this year, and breakdowns of the key 2020 races. And for the first time, by selecting the tile that says “Voting Information” or “Información para votar,” customers will be able to enter their mobile number and receive a link to vote.gov, the official U.S. government voter information website with information on voting in their specific state.

Election Central will also stream curated content featuring programming from more than a dozen networks and streaming services, including ABC News, CBS News, Cheddar, CNN, CNN en Español, C-SPAN, Fox Nation, Fox News, iHeartRadio, MSNBC, NBC News, Newsmax, Newsy, NPR, PBS, Telemundo, TYT, Univision and YouTube, among others.

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Through platform, X1 and Flex customers can also find live and on demand coverage and highlights of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions on their preferred network within the “Choose Your News Row.”

Historical moments from campaign trails, including coverage from Democratic and Republican National Conventions dating back to 1948, as well as documentaries and specials.

On demand episodes from political affairs shows, including ABC News’s This Week, CBS News’s Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union (X1 Only), Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press.

Podcasts for news and analysis, including the Chuck Toddcast from NBC News, The Ben Shapiro Show, The Daily from The New York TimesThe Glenn Beck Program and Up First from NPR.

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 Bows Peacock Streaming Service to Comcast Xfinity/Flex Subs on April 15; Possible Expedited Nationwide Launch

NBCUniversal April 15 begins offering its branded Peacock streaming service to Comcast Cable Xfinity/Flex subscribers. Programming will include catalog TV shows and movies, including former NBC standouts, “Parks and Recreation,” “30 Rock” and “Law & Order: SVU,” the entire “Saturday Night Live” catalog, and Universal Pictures movies Jurassic Park, E.T. and Schindler’s List, among others.

The Peacock app will be available with the nationwide, which could be moved up from its previously announced July 15 date, Matt Strauss, chairman of Peacock (and former Media Play News “Digital Driver”) April 14 told a media conference call.

Peacock Premium will be available for free to Comcast pay-TV subscribers; $4.99 monthly with ads to non-subs; and $7.99 with out commercials.

Strauss said NBCUniversal is “evaluating” moving up the launch date with millions of Americans quarantined in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The SVOD/AVOD platform was expected to play a major role in NBC’s 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics coverage — plans that were turned upside down when the quadrennial event was pushed by to 2021.

“We feel even more strongly we need to bring Peacock as quickly to market as possible,” Strauss said.

Matt Strauss

The longtime Comcast executive said Peacock originals, including “Brave New World,” an update of “Saved By the Bell,” with original cast members Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez, among others, would be available on the platform later this year or in 2021.

Peacock Free will include 7,500 hours of content, including next-day access to current NBC TV series.

Peacock Premium showcases 15,000 hours of content, in addition to early access (by 3 1/2 hours) to “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

 

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.

NBC Universal CEO: ‘Peacock’ Streaming Service Not Chasing Netflix

Seeking to avoid confusion among consumers facing a barrage of new high-profile subscription streaming video services entering the market next month, NBC Universal plans to focus its branded Peacock service around ad-supported content.

Speaking on the Oct. 24 Comcast fiscal call, Stephen Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, said Peacock would attempt to assuage Xfinity subscribers considering ditching the traditional cable bundle for over-the-top video.

NBC Universal CEO Stephen Burke

“I think the most important thing to think about as you’re thinking about Peacock and its role inside NBCU and broader Comcast, is we’re not doing the same strategy that Netflix and people chasing Netflix have adopted,” Burke said.

Comcast, long a defender of linear TV, has slowly adopted Netflix, YouTube and other OTT behemoths into the Xfinity ecosystem in an effort to mollify subs and keep their discretionary home entertainment spending within the pay-TV market.

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“Consumers are still trying to figure this [OTT video] out. Do I cut the cord or not? We’re in the middle of a transition phase from pay-TV model to streaming model,” Rick Kowalski, senior manager of business intelligence at the Consumer Technology Association, told NBC News. “The platforms are still trying to figure out which content and what’s the most comprehensive package they can offer, based on what their vision is. But I think we’re still in a very transitional phase.”

As a result, Burke said Peacock — which will be offered to Xfinity subs as well as the general market — would largely revolve around ad-supported content so as not to add to the monthly cable bill.

“We think that … [is going to] cut the investment pretty substantially, because I think we’re going to get to cruising altitude much more quickly than a subscription service,” he said.

Peacock will target Comcast’s 55 million video subs with a tentative April launch aimed at segueing into NBCU’s 2020 Summer Olympics coverage in Tokyo.

“It’s a very, very interesting time as everybody tries to figure out what their strategy is, and we’re very optimistic,” Burke said.

Peacock will be bundled with Xfinity Flex, Comcast Cable’s Internet-only streaming service affording direct access to OTT services, including Netflix.

“It’s a great opportunity for Flex to be able to give a lot of great NBC programming, shows like ‘The Office,’ to people at no additional charge to a broadband sub or a cable sub,” Burke said.

The executive said that, with the arrival of Apple TV+, Disney+ and HBO Max, there will be a period of “very, very aggressive” marketing and promotion surrounding the new platforms and SVOD in particular.

“At some point, there’ll be an inevitable slowing down and shakeout, and the market will get a little bit more rational,”Burke said. “But I think it’s a moment in time, and consumers are making their choices of apps and viewing habits, and you want to be aggressive to get in there and make sure that your service is one of the consumers’ handful of favorite services.”