Comcast Goes Wide With X1 Upgrade

Comcast said it will begin to automatically migrate all of its X1 subscribers to an upgraded, more personalized version of its cloud-based video interface this week.

Earlier this year, Comcast began to deploy the next-gen UI, which had been carrying the “X2” label internally, as the de facto platform for all new X1 subs, but had been allowing existing X1 customers to continue using the original interface or opt-in for the new version.

Under the plan getting underway this week, Comcast is saying goodbye to the legacy X1 guide and making the new, upgraded version its standard, de facto offering for all X1 customers.

Comcast has rolled out its X1 platform in all its systems, but has not announced how many of its 22.6 million video customers are on it. However, the MSO did say that it’s deploying the platform aggressively at a rate of nearly 20,000 boxes per day.

During the initial phase of deployment, Comcast has been pitching X1 to new and existing triple-play customers, but will soon look to accelerate the platform’s reach by extending it to double-play customers as well, Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s senior vice president and general manager, video services, said at last week’s Cable Show in Los Angeles (subscription required). 

At last week’s show, Comcast announced several features that will be coming to X1 soon, including Instant On Demand, which will allow subscribers to restart select shows that are already in progress, and Share To TV, an app that will lets triple-play subs live stream personal video from their mobile devices via the Internet to TVs that are connected to the X1 platform.

In Los Angeles, Comcast execs showed off a new X1 capability introduced last month that uses consumer usage information to tell viewers which live shows and VOD titles are trending. On the live TV side, the new Trending Guide taps Twitter data to alert viewers to shows that are buzzing on the social network. Comcast may tweak how those alerts are presented, but early on, the economic Twitter bird appear next to shows that are trending. The MSO is also using set-top data to create a list of the most popular on-demand shows and movies.

Comcast is also inching toward the deployment of the Xi3, a small, all-IP HD client device that works in tandem with the primary, multi-tuner XG1 HD-DVR box. At the show, Strauss said Comcast is testing the Xi3 (it showed a model made by U.K.-based set-top maker Pace at the Los Angeles event), and is targeting deployments by the second half of the year, the Comcast exec said, noting that the MSO is also developing the Xi4, a smaller version of the client device.  

And other features are reportedly heading to the X1 platform. Reuters reported this week that Comcast and Electronic Arts are nearing a deal that will allow the MSO to offer console-quality games on X1 set-tops.

Comcast declined to comment on the report, but Reuters said the agreement would cover titles from EA’s popular FIFA and Madden franchises.

As reported by Multichannel News last August, Comcast has been testing a set-top-box-based gaming service fed by Origin, EA’s Web-based game delivery service, with select X1 customers. For that test, Comcast developed an iPad app that turns the tablet into a game controller.