Video

Comcast Speeds Up X1 Rollout

Expanding Eligibility For Cloud-Based Video Platform 7/22/2014 4:30 PM Eastern
TakeAway

Comcast's X1 platform has not had a material impact on the MSO's video business but the company likes the results it's seeing early on

Citing its positive effects on customer churn and VOD usage early on, Comcast is looking to accelerate the rollout and expand the eligibility requirements for X1, the MSO’s IP-capable, cloud-based video platform.

 

Comcast has launched X1 capabilities across its footprint and still hasn’t announced how many customers are now on it, other than to say that it’s deploying about 20,000 X1 boxes per day.

 

“Our X1 additions nearly doubled this quarter, and we are looking again at further increasing the eligibility,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on Tuesday’s second quarter earnings call, noting later that previous X1 box inventory issues are now a thing of the past.

 

Comcast currently offers X1 to all triple-play customers and is also starting to extend it to double play customers who take its video and broadband service. The company has also begun to test a self-install kit for X1 that should help the operator accelerate the rollout.

 

“The rate of installations continues…to increase each quarter, and it’s scaling really well,” Roberts said.

 

“The last two sequential quarters we’ve doubled the number of boxes we’ve deployed. So, I think we’re seeing it ramp up,” added Neil Smit, president and CEO of Comcast Cable. “We’re trying to maximize the return on our capital, and we want to make sure that we’re rolling out the product to customers where we know there is a good return.”

 

Despite the increase in customers on X1, Comcast still lost 144,000 video subs in the second quarter. But Comcast continues to like the results it’s seeing from X1.

 

According to Smit, X1 has reduced churn between 20% to 30%, produced a 25% boost in VOD usage and a 20% increase in VOD transactions versus the legacy platform.

 

“The ARPU of the product, once it’s deployed, has gone up very nicely,” Smit said. “It’s still not having a material impact on the video results, because that hasn’t been deployed to a large portion of our base yet.”

 

Comcast’s X1 rollout is likewise contributing to higher capital costs. Cable capex rose 13%, to $2.6 billion, in the first half of 2014, and will likely continue to rise in the second half as the MSO deploys more X1 boxes, wireless gateways and its new cloud DVR product, which launched in Atlanta in this week and, according to Roberts, is now available to roughly 31% of Comcast’s footprint

 

The topic of Comcast’s WiFi strategy also came up on the call.

 

Smit said Comcast has lit up about 3.6 million hotspots in the home that carry the “Xfinity WiFi” SSID. Comcast expects to have 8 million hotspots rolled out by year end, a figure that will include nearly 7 million in homes, with the balance of deployments out on the network, including business locations.

 

When asked about a possible wireless replacement product,  Smit said: “We haven’t finished our planning yet, but …we do have some MVNO relationships, and those, if we elected to, could play a role.”  Comcast’s agreement with Verizon Wireless, which currently includes service bundling, does include an MVNO provision.

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