Comcast Spreads X1’s Wings
LR Cable News Analysis Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading 7/25/2013
Expanding its reach in New England, Comcast Corp. has rolled out its next-gen X1 IP video platform across Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and Vermont.
With the move, Comcast has now completed its deployment of X1, a cloud-based user interface and navigation guide with a growing array of video apps and other features, throughout its sprawling New England service region. The giant MSO, which has introduced X1 in more than 15 markets throughout the U.S., intends to introduce the service in all of its remaining markets by the end of the year.
As in its other launch markets, Comcast is initially promoting X1 to its triple-play customers in the New England region. But, without going into detail, the company said it will also target "additional customer segments in the future."
The rollout of the next-gen X1 platform is a key part of Comcast's broader strategy to shift towards cloud-based IP services and away from the cable industry's heavy reliance on traditional set-top boxes. As part of that shift, the MSO plans to introduce the X2, an upgraded, more personalized version of the X1 guide, sometime this fall. Among other things, the X2 will also help Comcast stream live TV programming to PCs, media tablets and smart phones in customers' homes. (See Comcast Tightens Its Cloud Embrace.)
Comcast also announced several new features for the X1 guide this week. For instance, it unveiled a new "Send to TV" feature that allows subscribers to send Web content to the X1 set-top box so they can view the content on their TV screens.
While Comcast is expanding its X1 platform, Time Warner Cable Inc. is focused on rolling out a new, expanded Web portal for its cable customers to use. The second largest U.S. MSO unveiled the new portal, known as TWC Central, earlier this week.
TWC Central, which replaces the company's old Road Runner Web portal for broadband customers, is designed to link all customers to news, entertainment and sports content, social networking sites, interactive TV listings and the MSO's products and services. The portal has also been redesigned to deliver a more seamless navigation experience to customers and make it more consistent with other TWC user interfaces.
Time Warner Cable said it will use the revamped Web portal to lure advertisers with "new opportunities," including photo galleries, new webmail and new banner ad positions. As part of its pitch to advertisers, the MSO estimates that its portal now generates more than 5.7 million visitors per month.
The two moves by the top two U.S. MSOs come as the nation's two top telcos continue to make strong inroads into the cable industry's pay TV customer base. In their latest earnings reports, both AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications revealed that they cracked the 5 million-customer mark for their respective video services, putting them right behind Time Warner Cable in subscriber counts. (See AT&T U-Verse Catches FiOS.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading