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Comcast Added 42,000 Video Subs in Q1

27 Apr, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Cabler backing pay-TV in the face of rising OTT video competition

Comcast Cable’s adoption of the cloud-based X1 set-top, and direct access to Netflix and YouTube, helped add 42,000 net subscribers in the first quarter, ended March 31. The linear TV operator ended the period with 21.5 million video subs, compared with 21.4 million during the previous-year period.

The cabler said 52% of its residential video subscribers use X1, compared with 35% a year ago. CFO Mike Cavanagh said he expects X1 penetration to reach the low 60% range by year's end.

“X1 continues to move the needle on the customer experience, ARPU and retention, driving higher customer lifetime value,” he said on the fiscal call.

Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, reiterated Comcast’s approach to rapidly evolving distribution channels and altering consumer consumption habits by embracing change and respecting legacy.

The executive said that in addition to content distribution deals with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, over-the-top video remains a “moderately beneficial” contributor to existing linear television.

With NBC a traditional linear broadcast player, Burke juggles old-school distribution with on-demand streaming reality.

“We're not counting on OTT being a huge impact,” he said. “I think our job is to continue to grow the legacy businesses … while at the same time investing in things like theme parks, consumer products, Spanish-language network Telemundo, digital [and mobile].”

Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson continues to maintain the corporate mantra embracing change under a traditional distribution umbrella.

“We feel good about the video momentum, even with the increased competitive climate,” he said. “We look at the new entrants as a broad category and we won't necessarily chase everything. We stick with our [pay-TV] guns.”

Finally, Roberts said he embraced FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s pledge to redo net neutrality provisions enacted by the previous chairman Tom Wheeler, including ending classifying the Internet a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

“We've said for a long time that we think [Title II] puts a damper on ability to invest and react to change,” Roberts said. “Having the right kind of consumer protections and net neutrality, which we've said we support and want, but not in a regulatory regime designed for a different era that doesn't apply to the business.”

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