Comcast Takes Apple TV And Roku to the Test

NEW YORK — Comcast is starting to test authentication with “certain programmers” on the Apple TV and Roku platforms as the operator explores new additional TV Everywhere avenues, Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s senior vice president and general manager of video services, said.

Strauss, the keynoter at the Next TV Summit here last Wednesday (March 19), didn’t say when Comcast intends to open up access on those platforms. The broad strategy, though, is to focus efforts on platforms that have high consumption, including PCs and iOS- and Android-powered devices, he explained in an interview with Multichannel News executive editor Kent Gibbons.

Strauss also demonstrated X1, the operator’s IP-capable next-gen video platform. Comcast’s new, enhanced version of X1, internally labeled as “X2,” extends a common look and feel across the TV and mobile devices and adds more personalized features.

That’s coming into view as the experience becomes integrated rather than being plunked into separate silos. “Video will essentially become available across platforms,” Strauss said.

With X1, Comcast is seeing a blurring of lines between live TV, on-demand and the DVR. “At the end of the day, these are just choices to the customer,” Strauss said, noting that Comcast is starting to steer itself away from the DVR nomenclature. The DVR, Strauss said, “is just a personalized list of shows.”

To amplify that thinking, X1 will feature a “Saved” category that co-mingles content stored on the DVR or recently viewed on VOD with TV shows and movies purchased through the operator’s electronic sell-through product.

X1 is available across Comcast’s systems, but only about a third of its subscribers currently use the the new guide, which will remain an “opt-in” upgrade for a while. Comcast expects to have all X1 customers on the new UI by the second quarter, Strauss said.

The MSO is also ramping up a new cloud-services component for X1 that features in-home IP-streaming access to the full live-TV lineup, a cloud DVR, and a way to port DVR recordings to mobile devices for on-the-go viewing.

Comcast debuted those new cloud-based capabilities in Boston, and is “prioritizing some of our largest markets first” as it looks to expand, Strauss said. The current plan is to make the updates available to a “good portion of our footprint” this year, he said.