Roberts: Comcast to Make Netflix Widely Available on X1 ‘Before Thanksgiving’

Comcast will be launching a beta version of its integration of Netflix on X1 in a matter of coming days, but the operator isn’t that far away from making it available to all its X1 customers. 

“We expect it to be [available] across the entire Comcast footprint before Thanksgiving,” Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs 25th Annual Communacopia Conference.

Roberts demonstrated the X1-Netflix integration at the investor conference, noting that Netflix has content that Comcast subs don’t get with their traditional pay TV service.

Notably, customers can sign-up and sign-on to Netflix via X1. “This is exactly the Netflix experience” that a consumer would find on a third-party device, Roberts said.

Rather than telescoping and treating Netflix as a separate silo, Comcast will be integrating Netflix’s library into the X1 search and recommendation platform and tying Netflix into results derived via the X1 voice remote (Comcast has deployed about 10 million of those, Roberts said.)

Among other examples, X1 will feature an “Available on Netflix” row on the X1 guide, as well as in the X1’s Kids section. To facilitate binge-viewing, the next episode in a series will be auto-played – similar to how Netflix apps behave on other types of devices.

Comcast and Netflix haven’t detailed the financial arrangement of the integration, but Roberts confirmed that the two sides “have a marketing relationship.”

“We sell a lot of content to Netflix,” Roberts added.  “We’re now going to sell the subscriptions to customers of Netflix. I think it’s a big day.”

“I’m really pleased with the relationship,” Roberts said, while acknowledging earlier that the two companies did not always see eye-to-eye but have mutual respect.

Roberts also opened the door to similar relationships with other OTT providers. “We’re in discussions of doing that,” he said, hopeful that the Netflix integration will offer a “nice template” for others to follow.

Comcast focused on Netflix first, in part, because “it’s the biggest one, arguably the most important one to get right…I think our organization has made a conscious decision that we're going to aggregate other people's content, some of which we sell directly, and some that we don't."

He said Comcast would’ve liked to do that a year or two ago, but said the company was not technically ready to do so, and didn’t yet have the scale.

“We didn’t have enough X1s out there,” he said. Comcast is now rolling out about 40,000 X1 boxes per day, and expects to have about half its video sub base on X1 by the end of the year.

CPE Update

Roberts also announced some deployment updates for Comcast’s latest line of set-tops and gateways.

He said Comcast launched the Xi5, the MSO’s first HDR-capable client box for the X1 platform, last week. Notably, it doesn’t need a wired cable connection, but instead connects to the primary box over WiFi.

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“I think this is the future of how we’re making cable boxes,” Roberts said of the Xi5’s wireless connectivity.

He added that Comcast has also launched the XB6, a DOCSIS 3.1-powered gateway, that he dubbed, “as the world’s fastest router.”

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“We’re taking this to retail,” Roberts said of the XB6, adding that it will also allow for customer self-installs.