nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

CandW discuss why the X1 Olympics is the experience to beat

VideoNuze nScreenMedia podcast

Comcast used INTX 2016 to demonstrate the slick integration between TV and web in its new X1 Olympics experience. Comcast wants you to know the X1 Olympics is the experience to beat. Will the approach bring a bunch of new subscribers?

NBCU is providing 6200 hours of Rio Olympics action this summer and Comcast is integrating both television web streamed coverage into a slick new experience inside X1. Both Will and I are very impressed with the demonstration Brian Roberts, Comcast’s CEO, gave at INTX this week. I thought it illustrated how Comcast wants people to know that the television experience is “better on X1”.

Will thinks the Olympics will really show off the promise of X1. Integration of broadband at the set-top box is crucial to modern media experiences. It allows the operator to do things that were simply impossible beofre. For example, voice recognition needs cloud resources to really be effective and it is a key ingredient in the X1 Olympics experience.

I question the effectiveness of X1 to attract new subscribers. Looking at past performance, it has only made a small difference in video subscriber gains for Comcast. This may be why the company is so focused on the Olympics. Sport is a great showcase and has been instrumental in introducing viewers to TV Everywhere. Comcast is clearly hoping the Olympics will do the same thing for X1.

Matt Strauss, EVP and GM of Video Services for Comcast Cable, defined a TV platform as a software stack and cloud infrastructure that allows the easy addition of new services and features. And that, perhaps, is X1’s true value. Pay TV is changing fast and an operator needs a platform to enable that rapid evolution. (You can hear more about this topic in my interview with Simon Frost of Ericsson.)

I think that continuity of experience is really important to consumers. Operators can bring this in two ways:

  • Creating integrated experiences like X1 Olympics
  • Integrating other services like Netflix into the experience.

Both Will and I think that Amazon is establishing a TV platform with its Streaming Partners Program, and that it represents a significant threat to cable. X1 could be a potential competitor to Amazon SPP, though Comcast has yet to open up X1 to other SVOD services.

Will is concerned that the FCC effort to open up the operator set-top box is not helpful to the evolution of pay TV. I think that market forces are pushing operators to make many of the changes that will be required to support the FCC mandate anyway. For example, operators are putting their services on retail STBs already (Comcast was demonstrating X1 on the NVidia Shield at INTX.)

We agreed to table the discussion of the unlock-the-box issue and dedicate a podcast in the near future to it.

Chapter 1: Comcast’s X1 Olympics integration (1:30)

Chapter 2: The promise of X1 (6:00)

Chapter 3: Effectiveness in getting new subscribers (8:45)

Chapter 4: The value of the X1 platform (11:20)

Chapter 5: Why continuity of experience matters (13:38)

Chapter 6: Unlock-the-box FCC mandate (16:30)


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