Comcast Readies ‘X2’ Migration Plan

Comcast will make the next generation of its cloud-based X1 guide available to video subscribers who are on the cloud-based platform in the coming days, and, as part of the migration effort, plans to switch all X1 subs over to the new guide permanently in the next few months.

Comcast has been rolling that next-gen interface, internally called the “X2,” to a small group of customers in multiple markets since late last year. The plan now is to broaden that availability by as soon as the end of January, Comcast Cable president and CEO Neil Smit said Tuesday on the MSO’s fourth quarter earnings call

According to a person familiar with the rollout X2 rollout and migration plan, Comcast will present the upgraded guide as the default interface to all new X1 subs in the coming days. Existing X1 customers, meanwhile, will receive on-screen prompts to flip over to the new UI, but will still have the option to continue using the legacy version for a while.  Comcast will remove that option and put all of its X1 customers, including new and legacy X1 subs, on the next-gen guide permanently “in the coming months,” but has not set a firm date for when it will execute the final cutover, the source said. Light Readingreported Monday that the migration plan will be well underway by the end of February. 

The migration will set the stage for a refreshed, more personalized version of the X1 interface that’s designed to run on set-tops and gateways and to extend that functionality and look and feel to tablets, smartphones, PCs and a new all-IP video client device called the Xi3.

In addition to the X2 interface, Comcast is also preparing to roll out a new cloud-based IP streaming app, called Xfinity TV, that will replicate Comcast’s service, including live TV, VOD and DVR services, on mobile devices that are connected to the subscriber’s home network and the X1 platform.  Speaking at the Citi conference in Las Vegas last month, Comcast chairman and CEO said the MSO was testing the new app in Boston, adding that “[t]urning every device into a personalized television set…is a big breakthrough.”

X1 did not play a material part in helping Comcast to  post positive video sub gains (46,000) in the fourth quarter of 2013, ending a streak of 26 straight quarters in which Comcast lost video subs. But the early, positive results seen of the new platform have convinced Comcast to accelerate customer deployments of X1, which is now rolled out across 100% of the operator’s footprint.

Citing “double-digit returns” of X1, Comcast intends to “reach the majority of our video customers over the next few years,” said Comcast vice chairman and chief financial officer Michael Angelakis.

Comcast is marketing X1 primarily to triple-play customers, but has begun to pitch it to some double-play customers, as well.  

Comcast cable division president and CEO Neil Smit said X1 has reduced churn and pumped up VOD usage, with views up 25% and on-demand transactions up by 20%, versus the numbers generated by Comcast’s legacy navigation system. A higher percentage of X1 subs also take a DVR service and other features that yield a higher ARPU (average revenue per user), he said.

“I think it's going to take a while before we go positive for the year, but we're clearly going to be aggressively rolling out X1 based on the strong double-digit returns we're seeing with it,” Smit said.