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Comcast Presses Pace With X1 Devices, Features

Even as the pay TV industry grapples with the unravelling of the big bundle (see cover story), Comcast continues to push ahead aggressively with X1, its IPcapable flagship video platform.

In addition to accelerating the deployment of X1, the operator has been adding bells and whistles to the platform and bringing new devices into the mix.

On the device side, evidence indicates that Comcast has begun to test the XG2, a new gateway that lacks a local DVR. Comcast isn’t commenting on the mystery model and where it’s being tested, but the XG2 is referenced in an online customer forum that compares and contrasts devices for the X1 service.

The XG2, labeled as a “non-DVR” for X1, cites two suppliers — Samsung and Pace plc (the U.K.-based vendor that’s merging with Arris) — and mentions that the model is “currently limited to select trial markets.”

Speculation about the XG2 has been swirling for months. Though the XG2 doesn’t have a local DVR, an SD card that’s slotted to the device (labeled as “Xfinity Instant Replay”) will be used to buffer up to an hour of video so viewers can pause, rewind and fast-forward through recently- viewed TV programming. There’s also speculation that the XG2 would be a perfect candidate for Comcast’s new Cloud DVR service, and that it will house four tuners.

Comcast has also unleashed a batch of updates and enhancements to X1, led by a feature that automatically extends the recordings of baseball games and other supported live events.

The “Auto Extend” option takes effect when it’s determined an event will run past its scheduled airtime, and will extend DVR recordings in 30-minute increments to ensure that the entire event is captured.

Programming that will support the Auto Extend feature early on includes NFL Football, MLB Baseball, NBA Basketball, soccer, NHL Hockey, NCAA Men’s Football and Basketball, and NASCAR races, the operator said.

Comcast Labs is also using X1 to test “Welcome Back,” a feature that provides users with a brief update on shows that have been recently recorded to the DVR or are trending.

Comcast added the updates as it continues to accelerate the rollout of X1. The MSO is now deploying about 30,000 X1 boxes per day, up from a previous output of between 15,000 to 20,000 boxes per day. Nearly one-third of Comcast’s triple-play customers are on X1.