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Believe It: Comcast Goes Nationwide With Netflix

4 Nov, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Former home entertainment foes unite, underscoring increasing impact OTT video has on linear pay-TV ecosystem

If the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series after 108 years of futility, it figures Comcast and Netflix can be buds.

Comcast Cable has announced that beginning the week of Nov. 7 it would make direct access to Netflix available to pay-TV subscribers on millions of Xfinity X1 set-top devices. The No. 1 cabler ended the most recent fiscal period with 22.4 million video subs. 

The move is significant considering less than three years ago Netflix reluctantly agreed to pay Comcast additional fees for smoother broadband access distributing video streams to subscribers using Comcast.

That deal triggered increased lobbying efforts in the nation’s capitol by Netflix and CEO Reed Hastings on social media and at investor events calling for increased regulation on the country’s broadband providers such as Comcast. Those efforts would prove a contributing factor to the FCC's revamped net neutrality provisions and federal regulators denying Comcast Corp.’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Throughout it all, Comcast chairman Brian Roberts — a major supporter of anti-Netflix measures such as TV Everywhere and VOD — refused to consider embracing Netflix as strategic alley rather than pay-TV competitor. At the same time, Comcast continued losing video subs while Netflix’s domestic sub base mushroomed.

Fast-forward to an investor event last month with Roberts walking through a demo of the Netflix app within the X1 infrastructure, including Netflix homepage and content recommendations.

“Netflix has been a terrific partner, and our incredible teams of engineers and designers have come together to create an experience that is not only seamless and intuitive, but also lets viewers search and watch tens of thousands of movies, shows, specials and documentaries with the sound of their voice,” Neil Smit, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a Nov. 4 statement.

Netflix content will be fully integrated into Xfinity On Demand, enabling X1 customers to watch past and current seasons of shows like “The Blacklist,” “How To Get Away With Murder” or “The Walking Dead”; explore Netflix original series like “House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black” and “Stranger Things”; or catch up on “Breaking Bad,” “Lost” and “Mad Men,” among others.

“The Netflix integration into the X1 platform means our mutual customers will no longer need to change inputs or juggle remotes,” said Hastings.

Comcast hopes to have direct-access to Netflix via X1 in about 50% of subscriber homes by the end of the year.

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