Comcast said Wednesday that streaming video from apps like HBO Max, Paramount Plus and others accounted for 71% of all downstream traffic on its Xfinity X1, Flex and Xfinity Stream platforms in 2020, an increase of 70% over the prior year.
In a blog post May 5, Comcast said streaming saw the largest viewing gains on Xfinity platforms in 2020, fueled by the launch of more than 70 streaming services during the year, including HBO Max, its own Peacock and CBS All Access/Paramount Plus. According to Comcast, OTT viewing rose 73% year-over-year on X1 and Flex.
In addition, 78% of its X1 customers accessed OTT apps each month, up from 68% in the prior year. Of those subscribers, nearly 80% are using more than two apps each month.
While Comcast is just one company, it is the largest multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) in the country with 19.4 million video subscribers and 31 million broadband customers. As Comcast and other operators shift the focus of the business toward broadband, streaming and direct-to-consumer services have become increasingly important, evidenced by its own moves into the sector.
Comcast launched Peacock nationally on July 15, and has grown to about 42 million signups at last count. Others DTC services like Disney Plus and HBO Max and Paramount Plus, have 94.9 million, 44.2 million customers, respectively.
Engagement is also growing. Comcast said that across its entire entertainment portfolio, including X1, Flex and Stream, customers are watching about three hours more per week than they were before the pandemic started.
Viewing was split pretty evenly between ad-supported content and ad-free content, with ad-supported apps like Flex (free to broadband-only customers) and Peacock Premium (free to X1 subscribers). Comcast said that ad-supported content accounted for more than 50% of viewing on Flex, with Peacock, NBCUniversal's Xumo, ViacomCBS' Pluto and Fox's Tubi among the other most-viewed apps on the platform.
Still, Comcast insisted that doesn’t mean that linear TV is dead, especially for sports. Despite the spike in streaming viewing, Comcast said that it saw an increase in traditional linear TV viewing during the year. And they added that data is showing that streaming viewers “value the lean-back experience” of linear. As an example, Comcast pointed to the live guide on Flex, which brings in traditional channels from Peacock, Xumo and Pluto into an integrated guide, is the second most-viewed feature on Flex behind the home screen.
“As we look forward to the rest of 2021, we’re going to continue evolving these three important pillars of our entertainment platforms to meet our customers where they are with the content and features they desire,” Comcast said in the blog post.
Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.
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