Comcast said a report last week that it is purposely avoiding ongoing development of its streaming platforms for Apple platforms contains “numerous inaccuracies,” and that the story “wrongly conflates individual business dealings and relationships with Sky, NBCUniversal and Comcast Cable.”
However, the statement tweeted out by Matthew Strauss, executive VP of Comcast Cable, on Tuesday did not address one of BESTAppleTV’s key assertions: that Comcast actually told Apple that in early December that it would not build a tvOS app to stream pay TV subscriptions to customers.
“Comcast’s press release talked about a litany of subjects, but did not include the phrase, ‘Yes, we are actively working with Apple and the Apple TV team,' ” noted Diffusion Group analyst Michael Greeson to MCN.
Did the enthusiasts blog, which is focused more on the business of Apple and Silicon Valley, and less on the cable industry, possibly conflate some things? Maybe. But again, Comcast’s protestations don’t necessarily damn BESTAppleTV’s post on this, either.
Comcast’s streaming ventures encompass numerous platforms and two other acquired divisions, each with their own relationships with Apple. Let’s unpack these first:
1. ) There’s Comcast’s Xfinity Stream app, which streams much of the company’s subscription cable TV experience to Roku and Samsung smart TV devices, and soon smart TVs from LG and Sony. This device ecosystem, enlisted under what is known as the “Xfinity TV Partner Program,” allows users to eschew their cable box for OTT devices.
2. ) There are the multiscreen/TV Everywhere capabilities that have been offered to Xfinity TV subscribers for years that allow them to authenticate their cable subscription through the individual apps of more than 130 programming networks. Xfinity TV subscribers can watch these channels on Apple TV, as well as Apple’s iPhone and iPad mobile devices, among many other third-party devices.
3. ) And then there is Now TV, the OTT platform launched by recent Comcast acquisition Sky in Europe, which Comcast says will furnish the technological backbone of a new streaming service being launched by its NBCUniversal division in 2020. Now TV also has apps for Apple TV and devices using iOS (the operating system in Apple mobile devices).
For its part, Comcast is claiming that Apple’s inclusion in Nos. 2 & 3 prove that it isn’t dissonant towards Apple—it merely hasn’t gotten around to carving out a deal for No. 1, the Xfinity Stream app, yet.
BESTAppleTV, meanwhile, claims that Comcast had no intention of ever introducing No. 1, Xfinity Stream, into the tvOS or iOS ecosystems.
And here’s where the news site gets accused of conflating: BESTAppleTV, quoting an unnamed source “connected to Comcast,” seems to imply that the operator’s elbow grease, in regard to streaming apps, is now being shifted away from Xfinity Stream and towards the new “Now TV” app. But Comcast will keep the same distance with Apple for that app, as well.
“Comcast is focused on the Now TV solution as the future of its streaming infrastructure and Apple has been told this,” the source is quoted. “Apple has also been informed Comcast will concentrate its [U.S. Xfinity] efforts on this platform, not on adding other third-party devices to the product mix with separate apps.”
The report also stated that Comcast will take the Now TV-based platform and distribute it on Comcast-branded Roku devices.
Does the source seem wildly off-base?
Diffusion Group analyst Greeson, who was quoted in the BESTAppleTV story, said that while he has no direct knowledge of Comcast and Apple’s dealings, keeping Apple out of the loop isn’t surprising behavior for a major pay TV operator like Comcast.
“Pay-TV operators have long been tentative about building deeper relationships with Apple, so in that respect, there's nothing new here,” Greeson added. “Apple has worked to build trust with legacy operators, and just a month ago announced support for Charter’s Spectrum TV App on Apple TV. At the present time, however, Comcast appears a bit less enthusiastic about such a partnership.”