Video services

100K Download Comcast's Xbox App

6:00 PM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) says its Xfinity TV app for the Xbox 360 was downloaded more than 100,000 times during its first ten hours of launch, so from a popularity standpoint, it's off to a nice start. (See Xbox 360 Streams In Comcast, HBO & MLB.TV.)

The MSO acknowledged on its blog that it made "a few adjustments to better handle the load of activation requests during very busy times" on Tuesday evening.

I joined the fun and fired it up Tuesday, and I encountered some technical hiccups in the early going. The Xbox 360 made me power-cycle my router each time I signed off and tried to sign on again. Last night, I also got some "Xfinity servers temporarily unavailable" messages. But since then it's been working just fine. I'll be posting my test drive soon.

Getting VoD to a retail device like the Xbox 360 is a pretty big deal for the cable industry. But this is about Comcast, so there has to be some real or contrived controversy to go along with it, right?

As we noted, Free Press and Public Knowledge pounced on the fact that Comcast's Xfinity app for the Xbox 360 does not count toward a customer's Internet usage cap, claiming this puts broadband video service providers at a disadvantage. Comcast is streaming that content via IP transport, but using its managed, private network, rather than the public Internet -- you know, precisely what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) network rules allow. But that's an inconvenient detail. (See FCC Votes to Approve Net Neutrality Rules, Comcast Won't Cap Xbox 360 Streaming and Comcast's Xbox App Raises Net Neutrality Concerns.)

Imagine how bent out of shape those groups would be if Comcast did apply those bits toward the cap. Then they'd be screaming about that, because they are already pushing the FCC to probe the broadband capping issue. And what if Comcast decided to be less transparent or upfront about its policy for streaming of Xfinity TV content to the Xbox 360? Then you'd really see some sparks fly. But this is Comcast, after all. If you're not complaining about them, then you're not doing your job.

But this little dust-up did give National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) an opportunity to sharpen its axe and take a few swings. NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell blogged about it Wednesday afternoon, noting that he's "bemused and disappointed" to see Public Knowledge try to turn this into a net neutrality issue that threatens the survival of the open Internet. "The Internet is going to die as a result of consumers watching Mad Men on Xbox?" he asks.

Of course not. But this is the occasionally exhausting, almost perpetually mind-numbing world of telecom regulations. If those folks aren't trying to turn a mound of dirt into Mount Everest, then I guess they aren't doing their jobs. Sigh.

OK, leave me alone for a while. I'm going off to act like Joe Consumer and stream the last episode of season one of Game of Thrones on my Xbox 360 so I remember what the hell happened before season two gets underway. It's coming in over a private IP network, you say? Yay, me.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:37:43 PM
re: 100K Download Comcast's Xbox App

I agree that people would complain no matter how Comcast handled the cap question, but there is reason to keep bringing this issue up for debate. Cablecos have a distinct content advantage because they own the last-mile networks. Could other content services companies put themselves in a similar position? Only if they could take more control over the content delivery process. Which, maybe they can with the help of licensed, cloud-based infrastructure. Or maybe they can if the cablecos start licensing access to their last-mile infrastructure. Or maybe not. 

There's also another interesting angle to consider too. We talk about the Comcast streaming app as a managed service. But Comcast can only "manage" it within the Comcast footprint, yes? That works for Xbox consoles, but what about more mobile devices? Presumably those IP bits travel over the Internet in some places. Should those bits count toward subscriber caps? It gets messy pretty quick. 

Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:37:42 PM
re: 100K Download Comcast's Xbox App

Let's see.  The argument from the Free Press camp seems to be that because something is transmitted in internet protocol, it somehow is by definition subject to network neutrality, and MUST be treated equally with all other internet traffic.  AT&T Uverse delivers ALL content in IP format.  Using the Free Press logic, the entire U-Verse service is a violation of net neutrality?

Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:37:41 PM
re: 100K Download Comcast's Xbox App

Google is advantaged in delivering content by way of You Tube. Amazon is advantaged in delivering content by way of Amazon Web Services.  Apple is advantaged in delivering content by way of iTunes.  Building infrastructure (with private capital, btw) confers advantages. 

msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:37:41 PM
re: 100K Download Comcast's Xbox App

The U-verse scenario has already been ruled on. But, as managed IP video services grow, I expect that precedent may be revisited. 

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