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Comcast Cable CEO: 'We Haven’t Seen an OTT Model That Hunts'

27 Apr, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit

Comcast Cable, the nation’s largest pay-TV operator, has been hesitant to put many eggs in the burgeoning over-the-top video market.

And with good reason. The cabler is aggressively rolling out a cloud-based X1 set-top device — now at 35% market penetration. Instead of affording third-party subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video direct access to its pay-TV subs, Comcast continues to adhere to a strategy of enhancing TV Everywhere, in addition to offering transactional VOD and Digital HD access to new-release movies.

“As we put more up in the cloud and go to IP video, we think the cost of the set-top boxes and the overall hardware in the house will come down,” CEO Neil Smit said on the company's April 27 fiscal call. “We still believe there's a need for hardware in the house at least at the gateway level and we've got IP video in the labs now and we'll continue to look at the right balance to get the best content and all the content to our customers while managing the cost.”

But with Dish Network and Charter Communications launching OTT services targeting broadband-only subs, and AT&T slated to rollout in the fourth quarter DirecTV-branded OTT services via smartphone, tablet, Smart TV, streaming media player or PC, Smit said Comcast is monitoring market response.

“There’s no reason we couldn’t do something very similar from a technology perspective or a [content] rights perspective. We would just have to go get the rights and deploy the product,” he said. “We thus far haven’t seen an OTT [business] model that really hunts. But we’ll continue to stay tuned into the market and be prepared to respond accordingly.”

Indeed, Comcast has developed a number of digital channels, including broadband-centric Xfinity On Campus for college students. Comcast chairman Brian Roberts said Amazon has helped the cabler bridge the digital divide consumer service selling pay-TV, broadband and telephone.

“They've been a great partner in helping us understand how to better sell contextually. In other words, if you buy a laptop, do you want an [high-speed data] service? If you buy a television, do you want a video service? So, the contextual sales aspect they've been very helpful in working with us,” Roberts said. 

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