Comcast—the global service-provider/media-producer conglomerate that everyone seems to love to hate—has been making a lot of news lately. Fortunately for Comcast, the news these days isn’t just about aborted acquisitions and unhinged customer-service reps.
The cable-TV giant unveiled a new online TV service aimed at cord cutters (and cord nevers); launched a powerful new set-top box; beefed up its connected-home platform; partnered with EA to develop a digital game-streaming service, and is rumored to be on the verge of launching an Internet TV platform to compete with YouTube.
Since many of those topics are of interest to TechHive readers, we reached out to Comcast Cable’s executive vice president of consumer services, Marcien Jenckes for more information. This interview was conducted over email.
TechHive: Is Stream, Comcast’s new online TV service, just a PR exercise? Are you simply trying to improve your reputation among younger audiences? With the reported limitations, it honestly sounds a bit halfhearted at this stage.Comcast
Marcien Jenckes, Comcast executive VP of consumer services.
Marcien Jenckes : First, it’s important to note that millennials actually make up the largest percentage of our X1 users and we just had our best second-quarter video results in the past nine years. [Editor’s note: X1 is Comcast’s latest cloud-connected set-top box platform.]
Second, a few of the so-called “limitations” are a little short sighted and miss the whole point of the offering. Stream is a great product designed for a very specific consumer: those who want a smaller group of channels and primarily watch video on a computer or device.
And remember, this is a brand new service that we are beta testing in a few markets this year. We’ll add even more content and ways to watch as we roll out to more customers, like the ability to watch Stream on a TV and more live channels to watch outside the home. We’ll also build in features like “pick your premium” and entertainment tiers like kids or sports.
Right now though, Stream gives you a skinny bundle of channels to watch on laptops, phones and tablets in your house and we included some of the most watched networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and HBO. Plus, you get Streampix and a cloud DVR. Out of the house, you can tune in to thousands of on demand movies and shows from this same channel line-up and watch anything you recorded. Pretty great deal for just . So think of Stream as a moment in time and as a product that will surely evolve and make even better in the months ahead.
TH: Xfinity Games, currently in beta, is another interesting development. What sort of audience are you after with that service?
MJ: Xfinity Games is an opportunity to integrate another experience right into the X1 platform and we think it will appeal to casual gamers and families. It’s in beta now, so we can work out the kinks, and we have a terrific partner in EA that will help us make the experience better and better over time.
TH: What has the consumer response been like in the three or so years that Comcast’s connected-home offering, Xfinity Home, has been in business?
MJ: Well, we really started Xfinity Home as a home security platform, and the home control aspect has grown and evolved over time along with advancements in technology and consumer adoption. We’re now at a place where I think Xfinity Home is ready to take off and offer the best of both worlds. No one else is really positioned to do that right now. We have more than 500, 000 customers, new partnerships in place with some terrific tech companies, and a real vision for where we want to take the platform.Comcast
TH: As you open Xfinity Home to third-party connected-home devices and platforms, will Xfinity Home solve the fragmentation issue afflicting this market?
MJ: I think we can be one of the solutions for sure. Look, there has been an explosion in the number of connected devices out there, but there still isn’t a single, simple platform that can tie them all together. Xfinity Home has the potential to be that comprehensive solution.
So we’re partnering with as many popular device makers as possible, so that when you buy a Lutron lighting system for example, it works seamlessly with all your other Xfinity Home security and control functions. These controls are also going to be accessible in one app, so you don’t have to dive in and out of dozens of different experiences. And by being on the same platform, we’re making individual devices smarter by letting them talk and interact with each other. The thermostat, the wearable on your wrist, the lights in your house, and the opener in your garage—all should be enabled to trigger one another and just start working as you pull into the driveway.
TH: The industry likes to call TV, Internet, telephone service bundles the “triple play.” With landline telephony on the decline, could the connected home, broadband, and TV be the new triple play?
MJ: We don’t have plans to change our triple-play structure. Remember, for tens of millions of people, having a reliable home phone is still very relevant and important. And there are some big saving opportunities for home phone users too.