Video services

Comcast's X1 Fails to Impress

Here's a glance at what's pushing the buttons of cable and broadband today.

  • An early review of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s IP-capable, next-gen video service, X1, was less than sterling as the operator prepares to launch it in Boston. Hiawatha Bray of The Boston Globe acknowledges that X1 is a substantial improvement over the company's older video service/navigation system, but calls the X1 a "work in progress." Among his quibbles: the install took two hours, the new navigation system "looks like the old cable system guide, with prettier fonts" and the interactive apps offer a mixed bag. But he does like the X1's search features and considers the X1 remote a "step up from the current model." Comcast intends to use the X1 to reenergize its video service. Following Boston, Comcast is expected to introduce X1 in a handful of markets later this year and into early 2013, including Atlanta; Chatanooga, Tenn.; Denver; and in its Philadelphia-area systems. (See Where Will Comcast's X1 Land Next? and Comcast's X1 Video Platform Lands First in Boston .)

  • Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) is starting to feel the negative effects of a new ad-zapping feature in its Hopper HD-DVR. The satellite giant said it has lost access to 14 broadcast channels in six markets stemming from a dispute with Hoak Media over the Auto Hop feature and carriage pricing, reports The Wrap. (See Dish, Broadcasters Go to War Over Ad-Zapper and Dish Sticks It to the Broadcasters .)

  • HBO GO has launched on the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire, a move that extends support for the premium programmer's TV Everywhere service beyond devices such as PCs, Roku Inc. players, the Xbox 360 and iPads. HBO GO offers access to more than 1,400 titles, including every episode of several original series, including Game of Thrones and True Blood, but requires users to subscribe to a pay-TV service. HBO has resisted the urge to unbundle its service and sell it directly to consumers via broadband (at least "for now," the progammer tweeted on Wednesday), but a recent survey suggests that consumers would be willing to pay about US$12 per month for direct, over-the-top access.

  • TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) Premiere DVR owners who also subscribe to Comcast in Boston now have access to the operator's Xfinity VoD application. TiVo and Comcast have already completed a similar integration in San Francisco. (See Comcast Presses Play on TiVo VoD .)

  • SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) posted non-GAAP operating income of $1.8 million (6 cents per share) on revenues of $36.6 million in results that reflected the recent sale of the company's broadcast server/storage and VoD management businesses. SeaChange said the quarter excluded $9 million in revenues tied to discontinued operations. It reaffirmed guidance that software revenues for the year would be in the range of $150 million to $160 million. (See Is the Worst Over at SeaChange? and SeaChange Unloads VoD Content Unit for $27M.)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

  • AESerm 12/5/2012 | 5:30:54 PM
    re: Comcast's X1 Fails to Impress

    There's integration of apps in the X1, but the guide that showed up in the Neil Smit demo in Boston was grid-based, with icons, so probably best not to expect anything revolutionary there.

    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:30:54 PM
    re: Comcast's X1 Fails to Impress

    We'll need a larger sample of reviews to get a better fix on what people think about X1 and whether the new product will help Comcast retain video subs and make some better progress on signing up new ones.

    When I visited the Pace booth at the show,  I had five minutes to poke around and use X1, and I found that (of course) it's a huge advance over the current IPG But I didn't have a lot of time to play with the apps and get a better sense of what it woudl be like to use this day in and day out. But I suspect there will be a novelty to when customers first get their hands on it. And the initial version only comes with a handful of apps, so they'll need to expand on that a lot and integrate more OTT services to build appeal. JB

    craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:30:52 PM
    re: Comcast's X1 Fails to Impress

    The good thing about X1 is that it's cloud-based so that Comcast can respond to consumer opinion in quick order and make modifications or add more apps from the headend or a regional data center. The cable industry has struggled for years with electronic program guides that were virtually impossible to change or enhance. 

    It takes time for users to get accustomed to a new guide. Many of my neighbors who switched to FiOS hated their guide at first, and then they got used to it.

    The Boston Globe columnist's 2-hour installation experience had to do with the new DVR set-top box that he received. As soon as a Docsis-fueled STB is working, I think that adding the X1 guide virtually should be an automatic provisioning process that takes no time at all -- correct?  


    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:30:49 PM
    re: Comcast's X1 Fails to Impress

    That's true, plus, despite a continued reliance on a grid-style guide,  they do use alot more jacket art, which will be particularly helpful in getting people to use more VoD.  And using a grid setup will at least give cusotmers access to a system that shares some traits with what they're accustomed to using, versus making them learn something entirely new from scratch.

    And agree that the installs will get shorter. I recall that MSOs that were using the Arris gateway in the early going had to deal with some fairly lengthy setups/installs, but they are working through that and getting those times shortened. But once that IP connection is established, the in-home heavy lifting should be done. Still, I'll be interested in seeing how the reviews stack up as Comcast gets this more widely deployed and if this sort of review is the exception rather than the rule. . JB

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