Comcast Tees Up TV Everywhere Relaunch
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs & Co. Communacopia conference Wednesday, MSO chief financial officer Michael Angelakis said Comcast's TVE service, dubbed Xfinity Online TV, is set to emerge from beta sometime next month. Comcast introduced the beta version of it in December 2009. (See Comcast's 'Xfinity' Goes Live .)
Comcast has yet to offer much detail on how the relaunch will differ from the beta in terms of content and additional device support, but the company has already hinted that it will include a less cumbersome sign-on and authentication process. For now, the product is available only on broadband-connected PCs, but Comcast has been developing apps for the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, including one that turns the device into a remote control and content navigation system. (See To Xfinity... & Beyond!.)
Comcast has also stated ambitions to bring its TVE service to other forms of mobile devices. It hasn't revealed a specific launch date but earlier identified 2010 as a possibility. (See Comcast's 'Xfinity' to Go Mobile in 2010 .)
"We think that we have a great value proposition on the video side," Angelakis said of Comcast's TVE project. "It will evolve. It will mature in terms of how we innovate that product, whether it's online, whether it's on linear, or whether it's VoD, or ultimately, possibly wireless."
Comcast's relaunch is coming into play as the MSO continues to lose video subscribers. TVE is generally seen as a defensive tactic to bring value to those subscriptions and to keep churn in check, but Angelakis said the aim of the service "clearly is offensive." [Ed. note: in the good sense, we presume.]
"Clearly, the video business has been softer than we would like it to be," he said, noting that the economy and competition from telcos and satellite TV service providers, not cord-cutting, is what's been driving it. Comcast has lost roughly 160,000 basic broadcast customers in the first half of 2010. It gained roughly that amount in the first half of last year, largely benefiting from the broadcast TV digital transition.
But Angelakis is not completely discounting the competitive effects of cord-cutting and over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) "When we think about cord-cutting… we look at that as primarily competition to our VoD business, not to our core business."
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg offered a more bearish view of OTT Thursday morning at the same conference.
"Over-the-top is going to be a pretty big issue for cable," he said. "We take the over-the-top issue with video very seriously," he said. "I think cable has some life left in its model… but that it is going to get disintermediated over the next several years."
Avoiding another Clearwire cash splash
On the wireless front, Angelakis said Comcast has been pleased with its investment in Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), but doesn't plan to throw more money on the pile as the WiMax provider seeks options for a next round of funding.
"We own a little bit more than 9 percent of [Clearwire]," Angelakis said. "We don't see, really, any strategic advantage of owning 10 percent or 11 percent. We have no commitment to invest any further. I think Clearwire has to figure this out."
Clearwire has looked at possibly selling spectrum to help it raise funds. Angelakis didn't speak directly to that possible strategy, but acknowledged it's just one of the options. "They have a lot of spectrum and it's very valuable. So that may be one of the funding mechanisms. We'll see."
The funding question will likely come up again this afternoon, when Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow speaks at the Goldman Sachs conference.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable