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Comcast CEO: Streampix Expanding Cable Program Access

1 Jun, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Cable operator is also rolling out cloud-based set-top boxes with a focus on movies

Comcast is upping marketing efforts to subscribers for its streaming service, Xfinity Streampix, as a means of accessing repurposed TV shows, episodic programming, sports and catalog movies on-demand with a user-interface similar to Netflix, CEO Brian Roberts said.

Speaking June 1 at Sanford Bernstein & Co.’s investor conference in New York, Roberts said the standalone/bundled platform is designed to compete with subscription video-on-demand pioneer Netflix while also expanding the “live window” to sports cable subs pay monthly access for.

Roberts said that as Comcast spends “$7 billion to $8 billion a year [on] content rights,” Streampix allows the No. 1 cable operator to use the acquired TV Everywhere rights so that “not all our customers, but some of our [premium] customers” get greater access to content.

The CEO said Streampix closes a gap that had existed in Comcast’s video offerings between live and catalog programming. Streampix is currently a value-add to premium cable subs, but Comcast plans to offer it as a standalone streaming service later this year for a monthly fee.

“And we want it available on all [consumer electronics] devices … that’s what’s Streampix is,” Roberts said.

Comcast has also begun rolling out to select markets a cloud-based set-top box DVR that enables subscribers to more easily locate new-release movies, title reviews, recommendations (based on the viewer), poster art and bonus material directly from the Internet.

Called the X1, Comcast unveiled the hybrid cable-Internet box May 21 at The Cable Show in Boston —where it plans to have several hundred thousand units in operation this year, according to Roberts. The X1 has previously been tested in Georgia.

Specifically, the X1 incorporates movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes (which is owned by Warner Home Entertainment Group’s UltraViolet registration site, Flixster.com), including information on the film, trailer, jpegs and related bonus material.

“You just can’t say this is the name of the movie and here’s picture art, that’s not good enough anymore,” Roberts said.

It isn’t clear if the X1 — which rents for the same monthly fee as a high-definition DVR — will tout cloud-based content (digital or physical) ownership via UltraViolet, the studio-backed digital locker.

Meanwhile, users can access the X1 remotely through an iPad tablet (in addition pending links via Kinect on Xbox 360 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab) enabling them to personalize their movie watching through a series of “quick links” to specific genres, high-definition, classics, etc.

Separate links exist for sports, news, weather and other programming. The X1 can also store voicemails (from a Comcast phone), manage household energy use, monitor home security and in-home lighting, according to Roberts.

Finally, Roberts confirmed that second-quarter (ending June 30) fiscal results for Universal Pictures will not be good following the disappointing theatrical box office for Battleship and Five-Year Engagement.

The CEO said the studio, which includes Universal Studios Home Entertainment, had unfavorable comparisons with last year’s Fast Five and Bridesmaids — the studio’s top-performing titles of 2011 (including home entertainment).

“Last year we had a content licensing deal [with subscription video-on-demand] that got booked in the second quarter, an online deal for television, cable, and broadcast content that most of the money gets booked in that quarter, so it’s not there this year,” Roberts said. “You put that together, we’ll have a negative quarter in NBC Universal.”

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