Comcast Corp.'s next-gen video platform will secure a showcase near the political pulse of the country later this month, when the operator launches its IP-capable X1 platform to customers in Washington, D.C.
Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts made reference to the coming deployment last Thursday during a Q&A session at the Economic Club of Washington. X1, he said, will be rolled out to "every major city" served by Comcast in 2013.
Comcast has not revealed a specific date for the launch, but D.C. is poised to become the eighth market to get X1, a service that features an IP-fed, cloud-based guide that's housed at the Comcast Media Center (CMC) in Centennial, Colo. Following an initial launch in Boston in mid-2012, Comcast has introduced X1 in Colorado Springs; Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; San Francisco; and the Philadelphia area.
The current version of X1 is a QAM/IP hybrid delivered to an HD-DVR from Pace plc that can share content with an HD client box called the RNG150N. Video services are still piped in via QAM technology, but the guide and its integrated apps are delivered in IP via the box's integrated cable modem. (See Comcast's X1 Gets a Multi-Room Partner .)
Future versions of gateways that support X1 will bake in a transcoder that can convert QAM video signals into IP streams and pass them along to tablets, PCs, IP-only HD client boxes, and other devices that are hanging off the home network. (See Comcast All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless' and Zenverge Eyes More Streams for More Screens .)
Comcast is developing a new version of its cloud-based guide, internally referred to as "X2," that will incorporate more personalized recommendations based on viewing habits and other data, giving customers a new way to discover and find live and on-demand content they might be interested in. At the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) Winter Educational Conference last month in Las Vegas, Comcast Senior Director of Product Management Rachel Lee said X2 will provide a "stronger editorial voice throughout the guide." (See Comcast's X2 to Get Personal With the TV.)
Comcast is marketing X1 primarily to new customers who sign up for the MSO's triple-play bundle, though it could also be used as a retention tool as the company tries to close the gap on video subscriber losses. Comcast shed 336,000 video subscribers in 2012, but is currently on a nine-quarter streak of improved results in the troublesome category. It would've gained video subs in the fourth quarter of last year if not for the effects of Superstorm Sandy. (See Good News/Bad News for Cable TV and Comast Whiffs on Video Subs But Scores NBCU.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable