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Sunday, April 20, 2014

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  • Four Comcast Announcements Show Importance of Digital Video

    Last week brought four rapid-fire announcements from Comcast, underscoring how the company is ramping up its digital video delivery efforts and the PR surrounding them. The announcements were:

    5/23 - Xfinity TV App version 1.5, with video streaming capability, available on iPhone and iPod Touch. Leading off the week was news that Comcast's Xfinity TV app had been updated so that iPhone and iPod Touch users can now watch streaming video on these devices (Xfinity TV streaming was made available on the iPad in February, and is not yet available on Android, though other features of the app are). Comcast said this was the number one most requested feature from users.

    5/25 - Xcalibur cloud delivery project details provided. Comcast's super-secret "Xcalibur" project received a little light of day last week, as the company provided more information of its vision of bringing all-IP video to the TV via a next-gen set-top box as well as to other connected devices. While Comcast highlighted features like expanded video choice, a fast search engine, a personalized view called MyTV, interactive apps and caller ID on the TV, Xcalibur's role is in fact far more strategic.

    Xcalibur signifies Comcast's ability to break free of the traditional set-top box's constraints and fully embrace the exploding array of connected and mobile devices. This would shift huge amounts of capex and operational responsibility from Comcast to the consumer, create much more flexible subscription options, and eventually open the possibility of delivering competitive services outside its geographic footprint (i.e. going over the top of other pay-TV operators). Xcalibur is Comcast's "ace up its sleeve" opening up all kinds of options.

    5/25 - Xfinity on Demand hits 20 billion cumulative views. Next up was news that Comcast's Xfinity on Demand had hit 20 billion cumulative views since VOD was launched in 2003. Comcast said it now offers 25,000 choices, including 11,000 different movie choices and 600 different TV series (and users are watching about 350 million programs per month).

    This update was provided by Marcien Jenckes, who recently joined the company as SVP/GM of Comcast Video Services. I've known Marcien since his Grab Networks' days, and he and I met last month, along with the senior PR team to discuss Comcast's VOD progress. It was clear from that meeting that Comcast will pursue a much more aggressive PR plan to promote its digital video successes. Part of the effort is meant to raise the company's visibility, which had been muted during the NBCU acquisition process, and part of it is meant to level the playing field vs. media darlings like Netflix and other over-the-top players.

    5/26 - Comcast Ventures formed, combining Comcast Interactive Capital and Peacock Equity Fund, the venture affiliate of NBCU/GE, with Amy Banse, formerly head of CIC heading up Comcast Ventures and moving to the Bay Area. This was mostly non-news since much of it has been known/anticipated for months. Still, the consolidation of resources, and the breadth of Comcast's reach with NBCU in its fold, emphasizes how Comcast Ventures could be an omnipresent player in digital media startups. No other strategic investor brings the same degree of market insight to the table as Comcast Ventures, and if it fully leverages this, it could really help shape the way the digital video market unfolds.

    No doubt these four announcements, in rapid succession, are just the tip of the iceberg for what Comcast will be sharing in coming months. With the NBCU deal now done, the company is freer to message its competitive progress on all digital video fronts.

    (Note - if you want to learn more about Comcast's plans, Matt Strauss, EVP, Comcast Interactive Media, will be on the TV Everywhere panel at ELEVATE: Online Video Advertising Summit, next Tues, June 7th in NYC)

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