Comcast, targeting a category made popular by the recent debuts of Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope app, has entered the mobile live streaming sector with Xfinity Share, an app that lets X1 subs send live video streams, recorded video, and digital photos to the TV as well as to other smartphones.
Comcast, which began to test the app last year under the "MyMedia" moniker, said Xfinity Share allows X1 customers to share that content (up to HD quality) to certain friends, family and other authorized users. X1 subs who take advantage of the app can send live streams or distribute recorded video and photos to their own X1 set-tops for display on the TV, or to the TV of another X1 customer.
To use Xfinity Share, a free app initially offered on the iOS and Android mobile platforms, currently both the sender and receiver must be Xfinity Triple Play customers with X1 DVR capable set-top boxes, Comcast said. However, Comcast plans to add functionality later this year that will allow those X1 triple-play subs to share content with virtually anyone -- Comcast customer or not --by sending a URL via email.
Xfinity Share relies on WebRTC, an open Internet standard that supports real-time communication over Web browsers, though Comcast is one of the first companies to apply WebRTC to TV (via the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform).
“WebRTC and X1 are a natural fit,” Franklyn Athias, senior vice president of Comcast IP Communications Services, said in a blog post about the new app. “While WebRTC-enabled tools have proliferated online in recent months, Xfinity Share is the first technology that brings a robust WebRTC-enabled streaming experience to the television screen.This was important for us, because while the technology underpinning WebRTC may be cutting edge, it has the potential to be useful to just about anyone, including people who may be more comfortable navigating their televisions than they are downloading Internet applications.”
“We’re giving our customers the power to share special moments in their lives as they happen,” added Patti Loyack, Comcast Cable’s vice president of communications. “Whether a child’s baseball game, a graduation or just a beautiful sunset, Share lets users broadcast whatever they see in real time to the biggest screen in the home.”
To deliver a live stream to the TV, customers must first open the Xfinity Share app on their mobile device, select the “Stream Live” option, and then accept the notification that appears on the TV screen on the other end.
Early on, Xfinity Share users will have access to 20 Gigabytes of cloud storage from Comcast (enough to hold about 200 minutes of video) where they can place photos and recorded videos. Comcast said it also working on an update that will let customers store live streams, as well.
The initial version of Xfinity Share will let customers share content on a one-to-one basis, but plans are underway to enable customers to send content to up to five people at the same time.
Comcast said it plans to offer several more features to Xfinity Share later this year, including the aforementioned ability to share content by sending a URL via email that can be viewed by WebRTC-enabled browsers; and the ability to stop, pause and rewind live streams.
Live streaming via mobile devices also presents some copyright concerns. On Saturday (May 2), a number of Meerkat and Periscope users distributed unauthorized live streams of the pay-per-view welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Prior to that, Periscope caught the attention of HBO when some Periscope's users were using the app to live-stream the April 12 season five premiere of Game Of Thrones. HBO tried to remedy it by sending take-down requests to Periscope, whose terms of service prohibits users from using the app to distribute copyrighted material.
Comcast’s Media Sharing terms and conditions also prohibit the distribution of unauthorized copyrighted material.