Comcast Bills Accessibility as Merger Benefit

Touted VOD-Related Benefits Last Week
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The week after Comcast pitched VOD and its third annual Xfinity Watchathon Week as a reason for regulators to approve its proposed deal with Time Warner Cable, Comcast did the same this week with respect to features and other enhancements that make its services and products more accessible, including the recently launched X1 “talking guide” for the blind and visually impaired.

Comcast has also touted the additional competition it would bring to the business services market as a benefit of the proposed TWC deal.

“As someone who was born blind, I know technology can be a great equalizer,” Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast Cable’s vice president of accessibility, said in this blog post. “And at Comcast, I’m proud to lead the team responsible for exploring how our products and services can open new doors to independence.  In fact, I think our industry-leading and sometimes unique focus on accessibility remains one of the overlooked consumer benefits of our pending transaction with Time Warner Cable.”

On that point, Wlodkowski highlighted the X1’s voice-enabled TV navigation system, noting that the MSO recently accepted the Corporate Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and that Comcast was recognized last week by the American Foundation for the Blind.

“We are excited to share accessibility advancements like the talking guide with tens of millions of TWC customers from New York to Los Angeles once our transaction closes,” he wrote.

Noting that Comcast runs an accessibility lab in Philadelphia, Wlodkowski also highlighted other accessibility improvements made to several mobile apps, including Xfinity Connect, My Account, and Xfinity TV Go, that now include voice over and talk-back components. He added that video descriptions are also offered on select live and Comcast VOD programs, and that Comcast also runs a service center specifically dedicated to customers with disabilities that is operated by a team of specially trained care agents. Comcast, Wlodkowski said, is also "working on things like helping those with a disability navigate their smart home." 

The FCC and the Justice Department have yet to weigh in on the merger. While some analysts have lowered their odds that the deal will get approved, many still believe it will get the green light, albeit with significant conditions attached.

In a blog post on March 25, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said the MSO believes FCC approval of the TWC deal won’t come until mid-year.  That came about almost two weeks after the FCC again stopped the informal shot clocks on the Comcast-TWC and AT&T-DirecTV mergers in order to give a federal appeals court more time to vet a challenge to protective orders tied to those deal reviews.