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Comcast Will Include Netflix in X1

INCOMPAS, whose members include Netflix, said Tuesday the video streamer had struck a deal with Comcast to make Netflix available via the cable operator's video navigation platform, a move Comcast confirmed.

"Comcast and Netflix have reached an agreement to incorporate Netflix into X1, providing seamless access to the great content offered by both companies" the companies said in a joint statement. "We have much work to do before the service will be available to consumers later this year. We'll provide more details at that time."

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Video providers have begun to see the benefit of making it easier for their customers to access streamed content, including Netflix. Pay-TV firms using TiVo equipment have already offered OTT services integrated into their offerings. Cable-stock analysts have been pushing them to do more, seeing it as a retention incentive.

But access to over-the-top content in competition to cable fare is a big concern in Washington these days and is driving the debate over the FCC's proposal to make sure that third parties can wed over-the-top with traditional video services. 

“From open Internet to interconnection policies, we advocated for a foundation that enables over-the-top content and traditional video to grow together, rather than apart," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering. "These smart policies, led and adopted by the FCC, have been hard fought victories that have knocked down many walls and are good for competition, consumers and free markets."

Pickering did not give Comcast a shout out for the deal, least in the statement: “Consumers are hungry for new content, and fresh creative voices. Netflix is a trailblazer that has opened doors to other streamers, and we encourage and support policies that help make search, discovery and access to all over-the-top content easier.”

Public Knowledge, which has been pushing for more seamless competition between traditional and new content delivery, including a big push for the FCC's proposal to make cable programming and data available to third parties, still saw some seams.

"We think that in a competitive market, consumers shouldn’t have to look to special deals between large companies like this just to access video programming from multiple sources all in one place," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney. "A competitive market will deliver lots of video apps on many different devices."

"As a side note, it is interesting to be reminded again how important the proprietary set-top box is to Comcast. It doesn’t look like Comcast plans to 'ditch the box' any time soon."

The Consumer Video Choice Coalition (CVCC), which has been pushing for the FCC set-top proposal, joined Public Knowledge in trying to leverage the announcement.

“Yay, Comcast customers can now watch Netflix! Now what’s wrong with unlocking the box and letting consumers watch the rest of the Internet as well?," the coalition said in a statement. "Comcast once again proves consumer advocates’ point; consumers are hungry for new Internet streaming content and don’t want a gatekeeper box or gatekeeper app telling them what they can and can’t watch.

“Blocking Internet streaming content is bad for consumers, content creators and innovation. It’s time for the FCC to unleash competition, and give consumers to power to watch, organize and discover the content they love on the device they choose.”

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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.