Streaming Goes Live, Mobile

MEERKAT AND PERISCOPE have nothing on Comcast.

Taking aim at a buzzing and increasingly controversial arena, Comcast entered the mobile live streaming game last week with Xfinity Share, an app that lets X1 customers send live video streams, recorded video and digital photos to the TV as well as to other smartphones.

It’s a feature and product area that’s going mainstream thanks to the popularity of two recently launched apps — Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope. Comcast, however, was a bit ahead of the game, as it began to test its app last year under a different label, “MyMedia.”

Now ready for prime time, Xfinity Share allows X1 customers to serve up content (up to HD quality) to certain friends, family and other authorized users. X1 subscribers who take advantage of the app can send live streams or distribute recorded video and photos to their own X1 set-tops for display on the TV or to the TV of another X1 customer.

To use Xfinity Share, a free app initially offered on the iOS and Android mobile platforms, currently both the sender and receiver must be Xfinity Triple Play customers with X1 DVR-capable set-top boxes, Comcast said. However, Comcast plans to add functionality later this year that will allow those X1 triple-play subscribers to share content with virtually anyone — Comcast customer or not — by sending a URL via email.

To deliver a live stream to the TV, customers must first open the Xfinity Share app on their mobile device, select the “Stream Live” option and then accept the notification that appears on the TV screen on the other end.

Early on, Xfinity Share users will have access to 20 Gigabytes of cloud storage from Comcast (enough to hold about 200 minutes of video) where they can place photos and recorded videos. Comcast said it is also working on an update that will let customers store live streams as well.

The initial version of Xfinity Share will let customers share content on a one-to-one basis, but plans are underway to enable customers to send content to up to five people at the same time.

Comcast said it plans to offer several more features to Xfinity Share later this year, including the aforementioned ability to share content by sending a URL via email that can be viewed by WebRTC-enabled browsers and the ability to stop, pause and rewind live streams.

Xfinity Share shines the spotlight on WebRTC, an open Internet standard that supports real-time communication over Web browsers. Comcast is one of the first to apply WebRTC to the TV (via the MSO’s IPcapable X1 platform).

“WebRTC and X1 are a natural fit,” Franklyn Athias, senior vice president of Comcast IP Communications Services, said in a blog post about the new app. “This was important for us because while the technology underpinning Web- RTC may be cutting edge, it has the potential to be useful to just about anyone, including people who may be more comfortable navigating their televisions than they are downloading Internet applications.”


While apps like Xfinity Share, Meerkat and Periscope seem innocuous enough — they offer a great way to send video of a kid’s baseball game to grandma — they are also presenting some significant copyright concerns.

It bubbled up big time on May 2 as several Meerkat and Periscope users tapped the app to send out unauthorized live streams of the welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo stirred it up a bit when he tweeted that night: “And the winner is…@periscopeco.” That resulted in some snark, as another Twitter user tweeted back, “…is copyright infringement the LT [long-term] go-to market strategy?”

It came up last week at the INTX event in Chicago . Speaking at a general session on Tuesday (May5), Chernin Group chairman and CEO and Twitter board member Peter Chernin tried to calm copyright fears. “There was certainly no intention on the part of the Periscope guys to serve as a piracy device,” he said.

Prior to the big fight, Periscope caught the attention of HBO when some Periscope users were using the app to live-stream the April 12 season five premiere of Game of Thrones. HBO tried to remedy it by sending take-down requests to Periscope, whose terms of service prohibit the distribution of copyrighted material.

Comcast’s Media Sharing terms and conditions also prohibit the distribution of unauthorized copyrighted material, but the whole app category could create a copyright problem that is difficult to enforce.