Comcast Expands ‘Xfinity On Campus’ Trial

Following up on its initial trial with Boston’s Emerson College, Comcast will soon expand trials of a multiscreen, IP video service tailored for university students at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

The Xfinity On Campus trial offers access to a lineup of live TV channels and VOD over the campus network. The service, delivered over managed, adaptive bit rate IP video streams, currently supports laptop and PC browsers. According to the Xfinity On Campus Web site, Comcast also plans to extend support to tablets and smartphones. Xfinity On Campus allows students to register three devices, but they can stream video to one device at a time. 

Drexel and Emerson College students authenticate by logging into a browser-based portal with their user name and password credentials. Targeted to students who are constantly roaming the campus, the IP-delivered, campus-only service does not require a set-top or a truck roll.

In November at an event on advanced advertising put on by Comcast Spotlight, MSO executive vice president of consumer services Marcien Jenckes said the new college-focused service runs on Comcast’s X1 platform, and that the service will eventually allow students to sign up for premium services such as HBO with a credit card. Comcast also intends to offer Streampix, its premium-level multiscreen VOD service.

Xfinity On Campus customers pay for service one month in advance, and Comcast notes that it currently accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and the Discover Card.

A Comcast official confirmed that the trial with Drexel will be "beginning soon," but declined to comment on the MSO's plans to expand tests of its emerging college-focused video service.

Drexel officials were not immediately available for comment on Thursday. According to Drexel data, it has about 25,500 students, including about 14,000 undergrads, though not all live on campus or attend classes at the university’s Philadelphia-area facilities.

Comcast’s campus service project represents another step in the MSO’s broader IP video transition, which is partly based on  VIPER, the MSO’s home grown  cloud-based, IP video infrastructure for set-tops and mobile devices. For its regular residential video service, Comcast’s Xfinity TV Go app currently provides access to VOD and 37 channels of live TV on mobile devices, and a smaller set of channels on browsers.

Comcast’s campus service in-the-making will be facing off with others, including Philo, a Boston-based startup that counts HBO and Mark Cuban among its backers. Philo has also developed an IP video platform coupled with a cloud DVR service that runs on browsers, Roku boxes, and the Apple TV (using AirPlay Mirroring). The company, formerly known as Tivli, has already signed on several schools, including Yale University, Fort Hays State University, University of Washington, Harvard University, Wesleyan University, Pepperdine University, and William Patterson University of New Jersey.