More Operators Opening Comcast’s Tech Playbook

Comcast’s influence on the technology direction of other major cable operators continues to grow.

Cox Communications and Shaw Communications have already begun to deploy next-generation video services that lean on Comcast’s X1 platform as they look to shore up their pay TV base.

Canada’s Rogers Communications plans to follow suit in early 2018 with a new X1-powered IPTV service, but its technology ties to Comcast appear to be going even deeper.

Rogers announced last week that it also plans to use a range of consumer premises equipment (CPE) designed by Comcast, including DOCSIS 3.1-based advanced gateways, WiFi extenders, and a new class of wireless set-tops for X1 that Comcast is starting to introduce in its own systems. Rogers will also adopt a Digital Home solution introduced by Comcast earlier this month that enables the operator to centralize and add smarts to customer home networks via millions of in-home broadband gateways.

By going with X1, Rogers, which lost 76,000 video subscribers last year, hopes to hop on the subscriber wave Comcast is riding in the U.S. Comcast added 80,000 video subs in Q4, and 161,000 video subs for all of 2016.

Cox last week said that 2016 was its best year in video since 2008. The privately held MSO didn’t announce figures, but attributed the results largely to the deployment of its new X1-based Contour video offering.

“We think there is a real opportunity for growth,” Tony Staffieri, Rogers’s chief financial officer, said last Thursday (Jan. 26) on the company’s earnings call.

The traction Comcast is getting with its X1 licensing program and the other tech relationships it’s forging, strengthens the MSO’s position as a software and technology company and supplier to some of its pay TV peers. Its syndication strategy will also help to recoup some of the costs tied to its homegrown products, while also driving more scale into its product ecosystem.

While that is good news for Arris, Technicolor and other suppliers that are strongly connected to that ecosystem, it will also apply pressure on other vendors — like TiVo and Evolution Digital — that have developed products aimed at helping MVPDs, including tier 2 and tier 3 operators, migrate to IP-based video platforms.

In addition to driving X1 penetration in its own footprint, Comcast also plans to add more X1 licensing partners in 2017, Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, said on the company’s Q4 call last.