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.

Comcast Launches Virtual TV Summer Camp for Kids

Comcast Cable’s Xfinity TV July 13 launched “Camp Tonsafun,” a free virtual TV camp hosted by “counselors” from NBCUniversal, which include TV show and movie personalities and production personnel.

More than 14 million children and adults attend camp in the U.S. every summer, according to the American Camp Association, and “Camp Tonsafun” is intended to be a resource for Xfinity subscribers who may be impacted by the closure of many programs this summer due to COVID-19.

Available on Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex, the camp features video lessons and activities spanning arts, sports, cooking, experiments and adventures geared toward children ages 5 to 12. Campers can participate using items that they likely already have at home.

Jade Catta-Preta, the new host of E!’s “The Soup,” is the camp director, kicking off the series of weekly video lessons and activities. They include: “Learn to Animate a Minion” with Illumination and Brad Ableson, co-director of Minions: The Rise of Gru; “Be a Smart Ninja” with Jessie Graff from “American Ninja Warrior,” “Prank Your Friends and Family” with Scott Tweedie from E! News; “Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life” with Jurassic World themed magic tricks; “Build a Home Obstacle Course” with Nate Burkhalter from “Exatlón Estados Unidos,” and “Throw a Tie-Dye Party” with Dina Cerchione, stylist for Howie Mandel (“America’s Got Talent”), and “Deal or No Deal.”

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Other activities include: “Learn Basketball Drills” by Trevon Jenifer from Team USA; “Make an Out-Of-This-World Milkshake” with Chef Chris from Universal Parks & Resorts; “Play Hallway Mini Golf” with Martin Chuck, GolfPass instructor; “Be a Pancake Time Traveler” with Chef Milo from Universal Kids; “Learn How to Make A Magnificent Mango Dessert” with Carmen Aub, actress from “El Señor de los Cielos.”

In addition to Camp Tonsafun, Xfinity X1 subs can enjoy Xfinity’s Summer Guide, which spans more than 2,000 hours of seasonal entertainment curated by its team of TV editors into fun and interactive editorial collections.

They include: “For the Family” featuring recommendations for a game or movie night; “Virtual Vacations” that enable customers to travel to popular cities around the globe or even adventure to Universal Studios Orlando without leaving home; “Summer Blockbusters” highlighting the most buzzworthy flicks of the season; “Summer Reading List” highlighting TV shows and movies based on books; “Festival from Home” highlighting virtual concerts and past music festivals; “Summer TV Preview” featuring the most anticipated shows and their premiere dates; “What We’re Watching This Summer” compiling picks from each of the Xfinity TV editors and their new and latest exclusive ‘Xfinity Hangouts at Home’ interviews with The King of Staten Island’s Judd Apatow, Scoob!’s Will Forte and Ken Jeong, Da 5 Bloods cast, including Spike Lee.

Comcast’s Xfinity ‘Watchathon Week’ to Feature Hulu Originals

Comcast Cable’s annual Xfinity “Watchathon Week” pay-TV smorgasbord is slated for May 11-17 featuring more than 10,000 free TV shows and movies from more than 70 networks and streaming services, including, for the first time ever, Hulu originals such as “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Ramy,” “Shrill” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Other original programming includes Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem” and “Belgravia”; Starz’s “Outlander,” “Power,” and new series “Hightown,” and Showtime drama “Billions”. Programming will be available across Xfinity platforms including X1, Flex and Xfinity Stream.

New this year, X1 customers can tune into an Xfinity Watchathon Week Channel featuring free programming across providers curated by Xfinity’s team of editors. The channel can be accessed within the guide on channel one.

Launched in 2013 as an antidote to streaming services such Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, “Watchathon” affords Xfinity subscribers free access for one week to practically every major TV show and recent movie.

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“With so many customers still at home, we’ve not only seen a 50% increase in Xfinity On Demand viewing across genres of programming from drama and comedy to reality, but we’re noticing other interesting trends like a more than double-digit growth for discovery-related voice commands such as ‘what to watch’ and ‘surprise me,'” Rebecca Heap, SVP of video and entertainment, said in a statement.

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.

Comcast Expanding Retail Footprint

Comcast Jan. 27 said it plans to open six new Xfinity branded stores in the St. Paul, Minn., area by the end of 2020. The nearly $1.5 million investment will place stores in Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Blaine, Vadnais Heights and West St. Paul.

The strategy is aimed at connecting customers at the retail level with a cable TV operator that increasingly is focused on branded over-the-top video and high-speed Internet service — including xFi, Xfinity Mobile, Peacock and Flex.

“These stores are designed to give customers an awesome experience,” J.D. Keller, regional SVP of the Comcast Twin Cities Region, said in a statement. “They are all about providing the best possible service to our customers, as well as giving all consumers a chance to explore our Xfinity products and services firsthand and check out our latest technology in an interactive environment.”

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Comcast recently opened the Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Center Xfinity Stores with the remaining locations scheduled to open later in the year.

The stores range in size from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet and will be staffed by technology specialists who can help customers get the most value from their products, including personalization, managing and controlling home WiFi experience with Xfinity xFi, amopng other features.

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Retail customers can also upgrade or swap equipment, ask questions about their Xfinity service or pay a bill. Comcast has built or redesigned more than 400 new stores since 2015.

NBC Universal Holding Peacock Investor Event Jan. 16

Comcast subsidiary NBC Universal is set to unveil on Jan. 16 further details about its branded Peacock subscription streaming video service in a special investor event at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Longtime Comcast executive Matthew Strauss and other senior executives are expected to shed additional light on the service the media company heretofore has been tight-lipped about. Indeed, the price points for Peacock (reported to be $9.99 and $4.99 for an ad-supported option) remain officially unknown.

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The SVOD service is a big step for Comcast, which heretofore has eschewed streaming video for traditional pay-TV and on-demand programming. The cable giant in 2016 embraced Netflix and YouTube in efforts to keep Xfinity subscribers in the fold.  In 2018, it added Netflix to Xfinity cable bundles.

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With Apple and Disney launching competing services last year, and WarnerMedia bowing HBO Max in May, the SVOD market has quickly expanded beyond Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, including jumpstarting an ad-supported VOD market.

Comcast has hinted at offering Peacock for free to Xfinity subs, but no official word whether that will indeed be an option.

Epix Joining Comcast, Launching Movie Streaming Platform

MGM-owned Epix Dec. 10 revealed is has joined Comcast’s Xfinity TV premium package nationwide. As part of an expanded carriage agreement announced in October, Xfinity TV subscribers have access to Epix’s lineup of movies and original series.

Launched in October 2009 by Lionsgate, Viacom and MGM, Epix is available nationwide through cable, telco, satellite and emerging digital distribution platforms as well as through the Epix Now app, providing more movies than any other network with thousands of titles available for streaming.

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Epix original content includes “Godfather of Harlem,” starring and executive produced by Forest Whitaker; “Pennyworth,” the origin story of Batman’s butler Alfred; “Perpetual Grace, LTD,” starring Sir Ben Kingsley; “Get Shorty,” featuring Chris O’Dowd and Ray Romano; spy thriller “Deep State”; and docuseries “NFL: The Grind,” from NFL Films and hosted by Rich Eisen; “PUNK” from John Varvatos and Iggy Pop; as well as upcoming premieres of new series “Belgravia,” from Julian Fellowes; docuseries “Slow Burn,” based on the hit podcast, and “Laurel Canyon”.

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Epix, Dec. 12 will also launch ScreenPix, a suite of library channels offering a curated collection of classic movies, uncut and commercial free. The ScreenPix suite includes ScreenPix; ScreenPix: Action; ScreenPix: Westerns; and ScreenPix: Voices, a channel dedicated to diverse voices. ScreenPix will also be available to Xfinity Digital Preferred subscribers.

NBC Universal’s Streaming Service Named ‘Peacock,’ Launching April 2020

In a nod to its linear TV legacy, NBC Universal Sept. 17 announced that its forthcoming streaming video service will be named Peacock and launched in April 2020.

“The name Peacock pays homage to the quality content that audiences have come to expect from NBC Universal — whether it’s culture-defining dramas from innovative creators like Sam Esmail, comedies from legends like Lorne Michaels and Mike Schur, blockbusters from Universal Pictures, or buzzy unscripted programming from the people who do it best at Bravo and E!,” Bonnie Hammer, chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, said in a statement. “Peacock will be the go-to place for both the timely and timeless — from can’t-miss Olympic moments and the 2020 election, to classic fan favorites like ‘The Office’.”

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The pending service, which will be available to Xfinity subscribers and as a standalone property to non-subs, will showcase catalog series “Battlestar Galactica,” “Saved By the Bell” and “Punky Brewster,” in addition to new series from Mike Schur, Rashida Jones and an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

Other episodic fare includes a docuseries from “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, a Jimmy Fallon talk show, a late night series with “Late Night’s” Amber Ruffin, and another “Real Housewives” spinoff are also coming to the service.

Library content includes “The Office,” “Parks & Recreation,” “30 Rock,” “Cheers” and “Frasier.”

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.