X1 Expands To 85% of Comcast's Footprint

Operator Connecting 10,000 X1 Customers Per Day, Comcast Vice Chairman & CFO Michael Angelakis Said

X1, Comcast’s IP-capable next-gen video platform, has been rolled out to 85% of the cable operator’s service area, but it’s too early to say how the product is performing relative to markets that are still using only the company’s legacy video system, Comcast vice chairman and chief financial officer Michael Angelakis said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York.

X1, currently offered on a Pace-made HD-DVR, features a cloud-based user interface, delivers a suite of IP-fed sports and weather widgets, third-party applications, including Pandora and Facebook, and the beta version of a "Send to TV" app that lets users fling non-DRM-protected Web video to the TV. Comcast has also begun to test an EA-powered gaming system that runs on the X1.

Comcast, which expects to complete the X1 rollout by the end of 2013, has been marketing the new video service largely to new triple-play customers.

Comcast has not announced how many customers are on X1, but Angelakis said Comcast is “connecting about 10,000 X1s every single day right now, and that number will ramp over time.”

But he said it’s still too early in the rollout to say how that's comparing to markets that have yet to make the jump to X1. Overall, Comcast has been improving video subscriber losses, but has not yet been able to turn the corner. It lost 159,000 video subs in the second quarter of 2013, giving it a total of 21.77 million.

Angelakis said recent, positive housing trends give Comcast a “glimmer of hope,” noting that this year capital spending on extensions has started to “tick up” a bit. While still small, that budding trend “is always a good sign…so we are cautiously optimistic that is going to help,” he said. “I don't think it is meaningful enough to create a directional change, but we will take any wind in our sails."

Comcast is also preparing to launch X2, an upgrade that will bake in more personalized features and extend the experience to PCs, phones and tablets, and set the stage for a cloud DVR service and IP-only HD video client devices.

“X2 is really a software download,” Angelakis said, “so I think you will see much more of that later this year or early next year.” He said he views the Olympics (the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are set to kicks off on February 7) “as an interesting time for X2.”

Angelakis was also asked about high-speed Internet, a product category that, with 20 million subscribers,  remains a key growth engine for the operator. He said about a third of Comcast’s 20 million broadband customers subscribe to a  50 Mbps product now.