Comcast Uses ‘E.T.’ in Spot to Urge Families to Connect

Comcast is recreating the relationship between E.T. and former child actor Henry Thomas in a new campaign aimed at urging families to connect in an era marked by cord-cutting.

A new commercial breaks Thursday during the usually highly viewed Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

The two-minute version of the spot shows kids playing in the snow when the holiday lights on the house dim. The kids spot E.T. hiding behind a snowman. They scream. E.T. asks if one of them is Elliott and Elliott--played by a grown up Henry Thomas--turns out to be their father. They show E.T. a V.R. helmet and fire up White Christmas on the TV with the X1 voice remote. Finally it’s time for E.T. to return to his family. The kids recreate the iconic flying bicycle scene before saying goodbye.

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The spot signs off with the tagline “Reconnect for the Holidays” and the names Xfinity, Comcast and NBCUniversal.

Another version of the campaign will run in Europe for Comcast’s Sky unit.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit will also be showing the original 1982 film Thanksgiving Day on its Syfy network. E.T. will also be available on demand for Xfinity TV subscribers.

The campaign strategy is to use the holiday season--a time when families get together--to show how technology from Xfinity and Sky connect people. 

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has told investors that the company’s strategy is to move from being a cable company  as cord-cutting reduces its pay TV business to being a connectivity company emphasizing the high-margin high-speed internet business.

“Our goal is to show how Xfinity and Sky technology connects family, friends and loved ones, which is so important during the holidays. The classic friendship between E.T. and Elliott resonates around the world, and their story became a very meaningful way to bring our company’s consumer technology to life,” said Peter Intermaggio, senior vice president for marketing communications at Comcast Cable.

E.T. The Extra-Terrerstrial was a big hit and box-office champion 37 years ago for Universal Pictures, now owned by Comcast.

Comcast’s ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, came up with the idea of using E.T. The film was made in connection with Universal and the idea was run by Steven Spielberg, who directed the original film.

Spielberg liked the “connection” theme for this E.T. reunion and gave permission to proceed with the idea and was consulted throughout the process.

“The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts. It’s really a win-win,” said Thomas. “Looking at the storyboards, I could see exactly why Steven [Spielberg] was really behind it, because the integrity of the story isn’t lost in this retelling.”

The spots give viewers an where they can find the full four-minute version of the reunion story and other related content. Other material, including an interview with Thomas, will be available at the Xfinity Hangout.

Xfinity TV customers with X1 will be able to say “E.T. Phone Home” into their voice remote and be connected to an E.T.-themed destination. And visitors to Xfinity retail locations can pick up a special E.T. coloring book and candy.


Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.