Comcast will integrate Amazon Prime Video into its X1 platform later this year. Amazon becomes the third major streaming service to be included in X1, following Netflix in 2016 (see here) and YouTube in 2017 (see here). Comcast said it’s the first pay-TV operator to integrate Amazon.
As with the other services, Amazon’s content will become available to X1 users as part of the X1 UI. Comcast is continuing to position X1 as a streamlined gateway to both its own content and also to third-party content. It’s a smart move by Comcast to build more value into the X1, helping justify subscribers spending $10 or more per month to rent the X1 set-top box (although Comcast has recently been emphasizing it sees X1 also as an interface, living on smart TVs and devices, as well).
There’s no question that for X1 users, the addition of Amazon (on top of Netflix and YouTube) is valuable. The broader issue for Comcast, as I wrote about last week, is that inexpensive and heavily promoted skinny bundles are putting enormous pressure on the company’s expensive multichannel services/X1 set-top box. Management conceded this last week on the earnings call, adding that it only sees the pressure to intensify going forward.
While a seamless X1 experience will resonate for mainstream users, many viewers are already moving exclusively to the “TV as an app” model, where they access linear and on-demand content exclusively through connected TVs. These lighter TV viewers are a perfect fit for the skinny bundle pitch - fewer channels, lower cost, no set-top needed and available on all devices.
While Comcast appears to understand these dynamics, what’s puzzling to me is that they haven’t articulated an aggressive response for how to retain video subscribers who call in to cancel their service. Simply telling them that Amazon will also be on X1 isn’t going to be enough, especially since most of these prospective cord-cutters have long been accessing Amazon on their CTVs and mobile devices.
X1 remains a terrific set-top box. Adding more streaming services like Amazon is also a smart move. But Comcast and other traditional pay-TV operators need to do much more to compete effectively in the streaming era.