Comcast Wields Its Newfound Cloud Power

Whether it’s in the home or on a growing number of college campuses, ample evidence shows Comcast’s cloud-powered Internet-protocol video transition for TVs and mobile devices is gathering steam.

On the traditional residential front, Comcast confirmed that it is testing a mobile app in Boston that transforms tablets and other mobile devices into personalized TVs when paired in the home with the operator’s X1 platform.

The cloud-based IP-streaming app, to be called Xfinity TV, will launch later this month and support a mix of live TV, video-on-demand and digital video recorder services, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said earlier this month at a Citigroup conference in Las Vegas.

At the event, Roberts showed off the latest iteration of the app, showing how customers “pair” their tablets to the X1 service by entering their login credentials. In addition to supporting live TV and VOD, the app also features a “mini-guide” that lets users navigate channels without the function eating up a lot of the viewing surface.

Roberts said the MSO is testing the app in Boston ahead of a commercial rollout later this month. It’s not yet clear if Comcast will offer the app in all of its X1 markets right away, but Roberts said the plan is to “roll it out to a lot of the company” in 2014.

Ahead of the launch, Comcast has already posted a trial version of the app, currently carrying the “Comcast Labs XTV” label, in the Apple App Store. At press time, it had last been updated on Dec. 16, 2013.

“Turning every device into a personalized television set, I think, is a big breakthrough. We’re excited about that,” Roberts said.


Comcast is tapping into this same cloud-based IP infrastructure to power a new service tailored to serve on-the-go college students.

That pilot service, called Xfinity on Campus, streams a lineup of live TV channels and VOD over a campus’s managed network. Like the Xfinity TV app, the universityfocused service uses adaptive bit rate technology that allows the bit rate and resolution of the video streams to fluctuate, depending on how much bandwidth is available on the local network.

The initial form of the service streamed video solely to PC browsers, but just last week Comcast quietly released an Xfinity on Campus app for Apple iOS devices. At deadline, the MSO had yet to launch an Android version.

Like the new home-bound Xfinity TV app for X1 customers and Xfinity TV Go, the MSO’s authenticated TV Everywhere app, Comcast’s campusfocused trials use VIPER, a homegrown, cloudbased IP video pipeline designed for IP set-tops and mobile devices.

Following an original trial with Boston’s Emerson College that got underway last year, Comcast will soon expand tests of the multiscreen service at Drexel College in the MSO’s hometown of Philadelphia.

Xfi nity on Campus customers pay for service one month in advance, and Comcast noted that it currently accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and the Discover Card.

Comcast declined to say when it believes Xfinity on Campus will evolve into a commercial product or if it has more universities on board for trials. But the early pilots are a clear indication that the MSO is far along in the development of a service that’s designed to appeal to so-called “cordcutters,” “cord-nevers” and a more general group of young students who tend to use tablets and PCs, rather than TV sets, as their primary video consumption device.

Comcast isn’t the only company trying to seize the on-campus opportunity. For example, Philo, a Boston-based startup that includes HBO and Mark Cuban among its backers, has developed a similar IP video platform that also includes a networkbased DVR that runs on PC browsers, Roku boxes and the Apple TV (using AirPlay Mirroring).

Philo, formerly known as Tivli, has already signed on several schools, including Yale University, Fort Hays State University, the University of Washington, Harvard University, Wesleyan University, Pepperdine University and William Paterson University of New Jersey.


Comcast is delving further into the cloud, testing a pair of TVon- the-go applications.