21 Nov 2017
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Comcast’s X1 video platform helps reduce video defections

MUMBAI: Global media and technology company Comcast is finally witnessing a gain in TV subscribers owing to its X1 video platform launched three months ago.

A cloud-based interactive television experience, the X1 platform transforms TV into an interactive and integrated experience. It integrates video with social media features, interactive apps, web content and more in an easy-to-navigate viewing experience.

The launch of X1 was a major part of Comcast’s efforts to take advantage of its powerful network and IP technology to bring new innovations to the market.

And for the first time in 26 quarters, Comcast will now report an increase in TV subscribers when it reports its fourth-quarter results later this month.

Speaking at an investor conference, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that X1, an Internet-based system designed to make channel navigation simpler than past cable boxes, has been the main reason the company was able to halt the video defections.

Roberts stated, “It will take some time before the entire year will grow, but it is a real beginning of an exciting reversal of trends.”

With Comcast facing increased competition from both satellite TV providers and cable operators, its performance in the fourth quarter is significant. Roberts noted that Comcast has lost video subscribers for 26 consecutive quarters, while it has improved on prior year results in 10 of the last 12 quarters.

He further highlighted that the rollout of its cloud-based X1 platform has contributed to subscriber growth, noting that the subscriber churn rate for X1 subscribers is lower, and that X1 subscribers have also generated higher pay-per-view buy rates than subscribers without X1. Comcast has also been in talks with other cable operators about licensing the X1 platform, and the subscriber metrics it has seen from the platform could help those efforts.

“We are going to accelerate the rollout of X1 over the next couple of years to get to the majority of our customers,” Roberts said.

The company’s strategy in recent years has been to spend on technology to redesign the traditional cable box, with a focus on Internet browsing. Their aim was to make TV shows and on-demand movies easier to find and watch on tablets and smartphones, so as to convince a customer that pay TV is worth the price.

Special features of the set-top box include a modern user interface that enables one-click access to programmes and a highly visual guide to entertainment options and related information, a personalised viewing experience with recommendations based on search input and previously watched shows and movies.

It also has the ability to search simultaneously across live TV, Xfinity On Demand and DVR recordings to see the last nine programmes watched across all services with a single tap on the remote control.

In addition, it also boasts of in-home convenience with the ability to watch DVR recordings from any room and simultaneously record up to four shows while watching another.

Comcast also designed tailor made TV apps including traffic, weather, voicemail and a sports app to track multiple games while watching another show. X1 also includes a selection of web-based apps, including Facebook and Pandora.

The X1 remote app enables customers to use motions, gestures and voice commands to control their TVs with their Apple handheld devices. For example, customers can use voice commands to navigate the guide and search for content; swipe their iPhones to page through the interactive TV guide, programme personalised short-cuts and favourites and shake their device to pause Xfinity On Demand content.

The X1 platform is now available in all of Comcast’s markets and the company aims to have at least half of its 22 million customers using it over the next two years.

Going ahead, Comcast will launch a new Xfinity TV app in Boston this month that will allow subscribers to use mobile devices in their homes to watch live, VOD and DVR programming. The app will be available on Android and iOS devices, along with the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet.

“We plan to roll it out through a lot of our company in 2014. Turning every device into a personalised television set I think is a big breakthrough and we’re excited about that,” Roberts added.