IMDb TV Lands First Pay-TV Partner: Comcast’s Xfinity Flex and X1

IMDb TV, Amazon’s ad-supported streaming service, Aug. 17 announced that its app is now available on Comcast’s Xfinity Flex and Xfinity X1. The launch on X1 marks IMDb TV’s first pay-TV partner, and expands Comcast’s embrace of competing digital platforms.

IMDb TV features originals from the award-winning Amazon Studios, including the recently launched docuseries “Luke Bryan: My Dirt Road Diary” and heist drama Leverage: Redemption, and the upcoming dramedy Pretty Hard Cases, premiering Sept 10.

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The free streaming service also features an extensive and updating library of movies and television shows, including “Chicago Fire,” “All in the Family,” The Hunger Games and How to Train Your Dragon, among others.

The expanded distribution follows IMDb TV app launches this year on Roku, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, LG Smart TVs (2018-21 models), PlayStation 4 consoles as well as Chromecast with Google TV, NVIDIA SHIELD and other Android TV devices. Earlier this month, the IMDb TV app launched on iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices in the United States.

In addition to third-party devices, IMDb TV is available as an app on Fire TV and a free Channel within the Prime Video app across hundreds of devices.

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.

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 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 Ups Focus on Broadband, Less on Video

Comcast may be the nation’s No. 1 cable operator, but doesn’t mean pay-TV remains the company’s primary focus.

Speaking Dec. 9 at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York City, CFO Brian Cavanagh said ongoing changes in the linear TV market and consumer migration to over-the-top video have resulted in changing corporate priorities.

“We are well in-stride on the idea that yes, video is important,” he said. “We make money in video. And it’s important to our customers, our legacy and investments we’ve made to X1.”

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At the same time, Cavanagh said that while Comcast remains well-positioned to provide video through the traditional cable bundle, given the rise in streaming video, he said the company would stop attempting to provide the “full video experience” across the board and expect to make money doing so.

Comcast has lost more than 500,000 pay-TV subscribers this year.

“We want to give customers choices,” Cavanagh said. “We’re not going to chance unprofitable relationships, but rather give consumers choices where we maximize what we perceive the lifetime value of the relationship is to us.”

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In other words, Comcast will no longer market expensive pay-TV bundles to consumers distracted by loss-leading OTT services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu.

Comcast CFO Brian Cavanagh

Indeed, as Comcast Cable continues to hemorrhage pay-TV subs, the company is focusing on broadband as one of the nation’s largest ISPs.

Comcast added 379,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period, up 13.4% from 334,000 net broadband additions in the previous-year period.

“The focus is always going to be broadband,” Cavanagh said. “And that might not have been what we said five years ago. It’s about attaching products where you can make incremental money and/or add stickiness.”

The CFO said pay-TV churn (subs renewing service) is under control in markets where the cloud-based X1 is deployed. But the company’s goal of having a video product in every household has changed.

“Customer satisfaction goes up if you give them the product they actually want. And broadband [not pay-TV] is that in all cases,” Cavanagh said.

TiVo ‘Wins’ Another Round in Comcast Patent Dispute

TiVo June 4 received a favorable ruling by Administrative Law Judge MaryJoan McNamara of the International Trade Commission (ITC) that select aspects of Comcast’s cloud-based X1 video platform infringe Rovi’s patents.

Rovi, which acquired DVR pioneer TiVo in 2016 for $1.1 billion, operates under the TiVo brand name.

TiVo has a worldwide portfolio of over 5,500 patents. Patents involve advertising, analytics, DVR, guide, search and record, interactive TV and apps, AR/VR, multi-screen, parental controls, VOD/OTT, social media, sports, personalization and voice.

This was the second positive ruling for TiVo. In November 2017, the ITC issued a final ruling that Comcast had infringed two Rovi patents around ‘remote record’ functionality.

Comcast subsequently removed this feature from their products, according to TiVo.

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Then on May 23, the ITC launched a third investigation into Comcast for infringing six Rovi patents including: X1 Sports App, multi-room DVR features, and set-top box integrations of apps like Netflix.

That query has also been assigned to McNamara.

“We are thrilled by yet another legal victory,” Arvin Patel, EVP and chief intellectual property officer at Rovi, said in a statement. “We hope that today’s decision will encourage Comcast to pay the necessary licensing fees so their customers can once again access advanced cable features.”

That may be wishful thinking.

McNamara’s ruling is just one required step before the ITC can mandate Comcast make additional changes or pay license fees to TiVo – which the latter would prefer.

The cable behemoth contends TiVo’s technology is outdated and has instituted proprietary technology in the X1 platform.

In a statement, Comcast viewed McNamara’s decision a victory since the judge found “no violation” regarding two of the three other patents involved in the complaint.

“We look forward to the full commission’s review of the one remaining patent later this year, but we are confident, regardless, this ruling will not disrupt our service to our customers,” Comcast said. “We will continue to resist Rovi’s efforts to force Comcast and our customers to make unreasonable payments for aging and obsolete patents.”

 

Comcast Ending ‘Xfinity On Demand’ Access for TiVo Users

Comcast Cable reportedly is set to end access to its “Xfinity On Demand” app for TiVo devices, effective June 25.

In an email to subscribers — first reported by tech blogger Dave Zatz — Comcast said “out of date [TiVo] technology that cannot be upgraded or updated” was the reason for pending non-access.

Comcast said the shutdown would not affect recorded programming, and access to Xfinity Stream would still be available on Apple iOS, Android Xfinity apps and Xfinity website.

“VOD is also available on TiVo through Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Vudu apps,” read the message.

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The pending shutdown comes as TiVo and Comcast remain embroiled in tech royalty disputes. The DVR pioneer in April appealed to International Trade Commission and filed litigation against Comcast alleging patent infringement on technology related to streaming video and cloud-based DVR.

TiVo, which is splitting into two separate companies focusing on patents and hardware, in 2017 received ITC backing for a complaint involving remote time-shifting functionality on Comcast’s X1 set-top devices.

It filed litigation against Comcast in April in U.S. District Court in California.

“We believe Comcast’s Xfinity X1 continues to infringe Rovi’s cloud and multi-room DVR patents – a vital component of home entertainment,” Arvin Patel, EVP and CIPO at Rovi,” said in a statement.

Rovi, which acquired TiVo in 2016 for $1.1 billion and assumed the latter’s brand name for the merged companies, claims to have invested over a billion dollars into its patent portfolio and products.

“We are extremely proud of our patent portfolio of over 1,000 issued patents in the US.,” Patel said.

Comcast, which launched much of its cloud-based X1 features via TiVo technology, claims it has developed its own tech and that most TiVo patents in question are outdated.

Cinedigm’s CONtv, Docurama Available on Comcast’s Xfinity Service

Cinedigm April 26 announced that its subscription video-on-demand services CONtv and Docurama are now available on Comcast’s cloud-based Xfinity X1 platform.

X1 subs can stream CONtv’s roster of classic cult films and forgotten series, and Docurama’s library of award-winning documentaries directly on their televisions. The two Cinedigm properties follow faith-based network The Dove Channel, which launched on X1 last year.

CONtv and Docurama can be added to X1 customers’ service for $4.99 and $2.99 per month respectively, and Internet-only customers can also subscribe via Xfinity Flex.

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This month, X1 customers can enjoy CONtv’s newest additions such as childhood classics “Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego” and “Angela Anaconda,” as well as the art tutorial “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, the sword-and-sorcery Arthur & Merlin, and Selena Gomez in the 2014 rock n’ roll comedy Behaving Badly.

Curated by the industry’s top experts and critics, Docurama delivers hundreds of hours of acclaimed documentaries suited to viewers of all tastes—boasting a content roster covering everything from personal profiles, sports, and music, to hard-hitting political exposés and insightful interviews.

“These launches further our commitment to redefining the traditional viewing experience and provide even more viewers across the country with the same programming that our networks are known for — appealing to viewers of all tastes, whether they’re sci-fi enthusiasts or looking for something a little more down-to-earth,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

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.