Following an extensive trial period, Comcast said it has moved forward on the commercial launch of “Xfinity On Campus,” a multiscreen, IP-based video service that is tailored for college students and accessible on Web browsers and select tablets and smartphones.
Comcast is using the authenticated service, which is powered by Comcast’s cloud-based X1 platform, to make a pay-TV connection with tech-savvy, on-the-go college students, a group that is accustomed to consuming video on mobile devices and to be among those likely to have cut the cord or have not previously subscribed to a pay-TV service.
“We’re excited about the opportunity that it creates. It’s kind of a new manifestation of what a cable service can be,” Marcien Jenckes, Comcast Cable’s executive vice president, consumer services, said. "We think it’s very relevant to students … who want to consume television on their terms. It also serves as a great way to introduce ourselves to our next generation of customers.”
Xfinity On Campus delivers a lineup of about 80 live channels, access to certain premium TV services, and a menu of video-on-demand titles via the on-campus WiFi network. The service, whicn is included with room and board for students living in on-campus housing, relies on adaptive bit rate techniques that adjust the quality and resolution of the video stream based on the target device and the amount of capacity available on the network.
Students gain access by inputting their credentials on PC or laptop browsers, at www.XfinityOnCampus.com, or via Comcast’s Xfinity On Campus app for iOS devices. An Android version is said to be in the works, though Google Play already has a version of it available for download here.
Starting this fall, Comcast will also enable Xfinity On Campus customers to use third-party TV Everywhere apps and services such as WatchESPN, FXNOW and HBO Go. Comcast expects to eventually integrate its own TVE app, Xfinity TV Go, with its university-focused product.
Comcast will also pair the Xfinity On Campus service with the operator’s new cloud DVR service as it expands that capability into more regions. Comcast has already introduced its cloud DVR service in several markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. That service will also allow students to download and “check out” cloud-recorded programs to mobile devices and watch them on the go.
Comcast is launching Xfinity On Campus this fall with five universities: Bridgewater College (Bridgewater, Va.); Drexel University (Philadelphia); Emerson College (Boston); Lasell College (Newton, Mass.); and the University of Delaware (Newark, Del.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.) and the University of New Hampshire (Durham, N.H.) are among the schools that will be conducting trials this fall, Comcast said.
Jenckes said the plan in the years ahead is to have all universities in Comcast’s footprint take advantage of the new multiscreen platform, and is hopeful that Xfinity On Campus will attract new college partners.
For a university to be technically eligible for the new offering in a given market, Comcast must have first launched its “cloud-to-ground” in-home multiscreen streaming service for the X1 platform.
Update: Comcast isn’t the only company that has its video eye on college students. Philo, a Boston-based startup that counts HBO and Mark Cuban among its backers formerly known as Tivli, has developed a similar on-campus IP video platform. Philo said it now has deals in place with "dozens" of universities, and has identified the following -- Yale University, Fort Hays State University, University of Washington, Roanoke College, Harvard University, Wesleyan University, Pepperdine University, and William Patterson University of New Jersey.
Philo CEO Christopher Thorpe issued this statement in response to the Comcast's launch. "Today's announcement from Comcast validates that more and more media companies are realizing the importance of the university market both for today's audiences and for future subscriber growth. Philo is excited to see more entrants committed to delivering cable and satellite TV via the many devices college students are increasingly choosing to view video entertainment. This further validates Philo and its partners' innovation in television on campus for years, built on our deep understanding of the needs and behaviors of the college-aged demographic. We are excited to be serving tens of thousands of students at dozens of universities this fall, with a robust TV and DVR experience for all major devices with IOS and Android apps, as well as content from industry-leading partners like DIRECTV."
More details about Xfinity On Campus, including its programming options, will be featured in the August 25 issue of Multichannel News.