Comcast to launch X1 next generation video service in 'major market'
By Steve Donohue
May 2, 2012
Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) will launch its X1 next generation digital cable service in a major market within the next few weeks, executives said on the company's first-quarter earnings call Wednesday.
X1 is a cloud-based video programming service that will offer personalized TV recommendations, apps for Facebook, Pandora Internet Radio and other apps, in addition to live TV and video-on-demand programming. While Comcast executives didn't say where they'll flip the switch on X1 first, its Atlanta system is a likely target. Comcast has been testing X1 on its Augusta, Ga., system, which is about 150 miles east of Atlanta.
Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit said the MSO will expand X1 to "hundreds of thousands of homes" this year. "It's dependent on hardware primarily," Smit added, suggesting that the availability of set-tops and cloud servers capable of delivering X1 is impacting the rollout.
Pace (LSE: PIC) has supplied Comcast with a hybrid set-top for its tests in Augusta. Comcast didn't say which vendors will support the expanded rollout of X1, but Smit said the product will be able to be delivered on other advanced digital video set-tops and on COAM (customer owned and maintained) devices such as the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox 360.
Comcast reported Tuesday that it lost 39,000 subscribers [http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=109&...2S0&mt=1&rt=0]
during the first quarter. CEO Brian Roberts told analysts that interactive products such as X1 will help Comcast attract and retain subscribers in the long term.
Pointing to Comcast's ability to grow video-on-demand usage to 400 million views [http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=127&...2S0&mt=1&rt=0]
each month, coupled with new products such as X1, apps for Apple's iPad and other mobile devices, streaming video service Streampix [http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=79&m...2S0&mt=1&rt=0]
and personalized [http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=186&...2S0&mt=1&rt=0]
program guides, Roberts said he was bullish on how innovation will drive future growth. "It's a different experience. If you really believe we're headed to an interactive world and each user--not even each household has their own personal choices and their own control--I don't know that there's a better platform out there than what we've been building, and it's starting to really kick in," Roberts said.
Also worth noting from Comcast's Q1 earnings call:
* Smit attributed much of Comcast's subscriber losses to rate increases that impacted 62 of the households that it serves. The rate increases resulted in more customer service calls and increased subscriber churn, Smit said.
* Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis said Comcast expects to win approval from regulators of its spectrum and marketing pacts with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). "I think both parties are very optimistic that we'll get the deal closed," he said.
* Comcast's Xfinity TV mobile apps have generated more than 5 million downloads. While apps for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad and iPhone allow subscribers to watch live TV on the devices within their homes, Smit said Comcast subscribers use the apps mostly for the tools, including the ability to search for content or use a mobile device as a remote control.
* Comcast hasn't expanded its tests of MyTV Choice low-cost programming markets beyond its three test markets in Seattle, Connecticut, and Charleston, S.C.
* Xfinity Home is available in 73 percent of Comcast's footprint, and subscriber churn for the home security and monitoring product is "very low," Smit said.
- see Comcast's Q1 earnings release [http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=29&m...2S0&mt=1&rt=0]http://links.mkt1985.com/ctt?kn=175&...U2S0&mt=1&rt=0