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Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Walks Analysts Through Netflix Demo

20 Sep, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

If there was ever any doubt about Netflix’s status in the pay-TV ecosystem, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts put an end to it.

Speaking Sept. 20 at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Broker Conference in New York, Roberts made a presentation to analysts the day after the No. 1 cable operator began beta-testing direct-access to Netflix through its broadband-based X1 set-top box.

While direct access to Netflix for pay-TV subscribers isn’t new, having it available on Comcast Cable is. In a big way.

Instead of affording subscription streaming services Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video direct access to its subs, Comcast adhered to a strategy of favoring TV Everywhere, in addition to transactional VOD and Digital HD access to new-release movies.

In April, Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit said the cabler had the ability to deliver over-the-top video, but questioned the channel’s viability.

“We thus far haven’t seen an OTT [business] model that really hunts,” he said on the fiscal call.

Fast-forward to Roberts walking analysts through a demo of the Netflix app within the X1 infrastructure, including Netflix homepage and content recommendations. Notably, Comcast has put Netflix content on equal footing with its 85,000 on-demand programs. Using the X1 voice remote, users can find Netflix programming and episodes, in addition to switching back-and-forth to the X1 menu with a click of a button.

“This is something we have worked out with Netflix … very great for consumers … they are in control,” Roberts said.

The executive said combining metadata from both companies with the X1 recommendation engine enables subs to find every available TV program or movie from any genre or by actor or director’s name.

“We now are launching it in beta and we expect it to be across the entire Comcast footprint before Thanksgiving,” Roberts said.

The executive admits he and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings haven’t always been on the same page regarding streaming video. Roberts credits Hastings for making direct access happen.

“Our organization has made a conscious decision that we are going to aggregate other people’s content, some of which we sell directly and some that we don’t. We spent a lot of time talking about how to make this, put the consumer in charge. And frankly working through this, the two companies have gotten a lot closer,” he said.


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