Strauss: TV Now ‘Any Device That Can Render Video Securely’

Comcast’s Xfinity TV App Has Been Downloaded 20M Times

The traditional TV is still the device that consumes the most video, but the rise of multiscreen video and authenticated TV Everywhere apps have redefined what a television is, all the way down to the way Comcast inks its distribution deals.

“You won’t see us define a TV in any of our agreements, because, how do you define a TV?” Matt Strauss, EVP and GM of video services at Comcast Cable, said Monday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston. “You can’t define a TV by a screen size…it's any device that can render video securely.”

With platforms like X1, he said, Comcast now aims to supports not just TV-connected set-top boxes but Web browsers, tablets and smartphones, as well. “We look at blurring those lines,” he said.  “We want to make it easy and seamless for customers to get access to that content.”

When it comes to X1, some of that blurring centers on the Xfinity TV app, which supports multiscreen in-home streaming of the MSO’s full linear lineup, plus access to video-on-demand, and its new cloud DVR product, which allows subs to access recordings in the home and out of the home  Comcast’s multiscreen strategy also revolves around Xfinity TV Go, its TVE app, and support for programmer-operated apps such as HBO Go. 

Strauss, who estimated that the Xfinity TV app has been downloaded 20 million times, said Comcast now authenticates on 18 different platforms, from iOS and Android, to the Apple TV and Roku devices.

Earlier in the talk, Strauss said viewing trends among millennials, cord-cutting and the shift toward skinny bundles are all “getting conflated by some into one thing.”

He acknowledged that some consumers don’t see the full value of the bundle or the “traditional” cable experience, but noted that millennials customers represent “one of the largest segments of our video bundle.”  Millennials, he added, "actually watch as much if not more TV than anybody.”

But Strauss also said that Comcast is willing to change and fine-tune its video business in order to meet the shifting demand of the consumer.

“As we continue to evolve our suite of services, you will see us become much, much more surgical around offering the right product to the right customer, whether it’s a millennial, or it’s a single-family home with kids, whether it’s a senior,” he said.

Strauss later discussed Internet Plus, a skinny bundle of sorts that Comcast began to test in 2013 that featured a 25 Mbps broadband service paired with access to the broadcast channels, HBO and Streampix (Comcast’s evolving multiscreen SVOD service) for $40 per month.  About a year after that product was on the market, about 1/3 of those customers had upgraded to a higher tier of service.

Strauss said Comcast, which lost 8,000 video subs in the first quarter of 2015, believes that it’s in position to grow its video business amid the shifting dynamics of the market.

“There’s still a lot we have to learn, but we have tremendous confidence that we’ve got the right products and the right tools and the right platforms in place to meet the customer’s demands to allow us to grow,” he said.

During the talk, Strauss also offered some updates with respect to VOD and its relatively new electronic sell-through (EST) service, which was launched in late 2013.

VOD, Strauss said, “would be the highest rated cable network in our footprint, just based on the sheer amount of people who consume the content there." He said Comcast has seen a 20% to 40% lift in C3 monetization in Comcast households versus non-Comcast households. “And we attribute that to on demand.”

As for EST, it scaled to a $100 million business during its first year, with 99% of those transactions coming via the remote control, he said.

Although Comcast’s electronic sell-through service, which is also accessible on mobile devices, is still in its early stages, “we do think that there could be some retention benefit to EST,” Strauss said.