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Comcast Streams Back to School

Mari Silbey
8/21/2014

Comcast has officially taken the wraps off of Xfinity on Campus, a streaming video service for college campuses that delivers approximately 80 live TV channels and thousands of on-demand titles to students' Internet-connected devices -- no set-top required.

The free Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) service initially launched as a trial at Boston's Emerson College in 2013. Starting this fall, Xfinity on Campus will become available at Bridgewater College, Drexel University, Lasell College and the University of Delaware. Comcast notes that several additional schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire, will also test the service this year. A spokesperson added that the MSO "can scale the service to hundreds more within our footprint."

Comcast isn't the first US company to target college campuses with a streaming video service. Startup company Philo (formerly Tivli) has already lined up at least nine university customers for its IP-based, multiscreen TV solution, including Fort Hays State, Harvard, Pepperdine, Roanoke, Stanford, University of Washington, Wesleyan, William Patterson, and Yale. Philo's financial backers include Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) and Mark Cuban's Radical Investments fund.

Philo has one key advantage over Comcast in that it's not limited to an existing service footprint. However, Philo's system for aggregating pay-TV content is far more complex.

In some cases, Philo collects over-the-air TV signals from an antenna owned by the host university and retransmits them over IP. (The closed university network keeps Philo from running afoul of copyright laws.) In other cases, Philo partners with a local pay-TV provider that has already paid retransmission fees. And in still other cases, Philo partners with programmers directly. The company signed a deal with HBO for example, to give Harvard students access to HBO Go.

From a features standpoint, the Philo service includes a cloud-based interactive program guide and DVR capabilities. Students can't access video away from school, however, as the service is restricted to campus grounds. (See Tales of Tivli: Taking TVE to School.)

Xfinity on Campus doesn't include DVR service yet, but Comcast says that feature is on the way. The Comcast offering also lets students watch TV off school grounds by signing in to TV Everywhere sites with their university credentials. Subscribers can add paid channels to the service, including HBO, Showtime, Starz and a Sports Entertainment Package that features "popular channels like ESPN Goal Line."


Get the latest updates on new IP video services by visiting Light Reading's IP video content channel.


With younger cohorts gravitating more toward free online entertainment, cable companies are anxious to woo college students with attractive premium television services. The idea is that if the operators can hook students while they're still young, they can set a pattern for television subscription that extends beyond the college years. Even though Comcast's university service is free, the investment in young viewers has the potential to produce lucrative returns over the long term.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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Ariella
Ariella
8/21/2014 | 2:19:52 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
@mendyK You can't top truth for strangeness.
danielcawrey
danielcawrey
8/21/2014 | 4:27:31 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
Very true statement... this is an obvious marketing strategy aimed at making sure people need their cable television from an early age. 

I would prefer to read a book or go outside, honestly. But I can't deny that I don't watch video. Of course, I am of the generation that does so via streaming media. 
mendyk
mendyk
8/21/2014 | 4:34:55 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
The big soft-drink companies and their high-school administration enablers took a lot of justifiable heat for this kind of market seeding (cheap soda in school cafeterias). Given the potential disruption that video services can have on student behavior, I wonder why video providers and their college administration enablers don't come under the same criticisms.
kq4ym
kq4ym
8/23/2014 | 12:00:04 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
Yes, it does seem interesting that the colleges would go for this, but on the other hand getting this "extra" feature into their system would probably help recruit and keep students at the school. It certainly is a blantant marketing tool for Comcast no matter that it is free.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
8/23/2014 | 12:05:16 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
Ariella, 

"I know of someone who taught a class that consisted of nothing but films."

Do you know what class the teacher was teaching? Or, was it contemporary culture? 

Many films have been used for classes but a class that consisted of nothing but films sounds intriguing, creative, and nice.

-Susan 
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
8/23/2014 | 1:02:03 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
mendyk, 

"There's nothing in the story to suggest that this has anything to do with edumicational programming."

That doesn't mean there is no educational program behind this. This can easily be used as a teaching tool.    

Video, film, music, recorded TV shows have been used for a long time as part of educational programs. There are even specialized courses for teachers about how to use these as teaching tools.   

-Susan
mendyk
mendyk
8/23/2014 | 4:47:03 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
Pretty much everything I know about opera I learned from Bugs Bunny. If you look at the details of this initiative, you will see there is absolutely NOTHING here to do with some sort of grand educational plan. Just like there's nothing inherently uplifting about sticking Coke machines in dorms. It's all perfectly fine and legal. And ultimately pointless.
Ariella
Ariella
8/23/2014 | 9:39:31 PM
Re: Driven to distraction
@Susan yes, and you can have a serious film class, as well. But this teacher knew that this was just a way to keep some very weak students occupied. They seemed to have just watched the films and not to have followed up with serious papers on them. 
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
8/24/2014 | 6:03:08 AM
Re: Driven to distraction
mendyk, 

Yes, yes. Now I see. I was in the false expectation that this could be used to take advantage of technological tools available for some educational project. Maybe some teachers will see the potential and do something positive with it. Maybe not.  

Coke machines in dorms? Well, let's see what all this will do to the students. Nothing brilliant, or healthy can come out of this. 

Bugs Bunny is a genius. 

-Susan
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
8/24/2014 | 6:11:55 AM
Re: Driven to distraction
Ariella, 

So then it was sort of a pointless thing? Not necessarily followed up with papers on them, but at least discussions that could lead to something, at least to develop critical thinking. Many things can be done with a film used in a class. 

-Susan 
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