Xfinity Flex Lays Down a Track for Peacock

Why This Matters: The Xfinity Flex launch is meant to make it easier for Comcast broadband subs to access streaming services, including its own Peacock offering due next year.

After announcing an April launch date — as well as a name, Peacock — for its entry into the streaming wars, Comcast shook up the hardware side of the video industry a bit, too.

The operator revealed that Xfinity Flex, the light streaming box extension of its more robust X1 video platform, would be given away to the more than 6 million Comcast customers who take broadband but not video. These customers would also get an X1 Voice Remote, which also works Flex.

Previously, Comcast had been charging $5 a month for the Xi6 streaming device, which provides access to OTT apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Tubi. Pretty soon, one can imagine that Xfinity Flex will also support NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which is kind of the idea.

Speaking to investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference about Peacock’s potential, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts pointed to Comcast’s relationships with 75 million to 80 million U.S. consumers, either Xfinity customers or those who get NBCU networks through other service providers. “Can we extend with distributors, can we find a way to have Flex — I’m sorry, Peacock — be available to those customers? And if you do so, then there’s no cost to the customer,” Roberts said.

Comcast also is proliferating its streaming device via partners that license X1. Cox Communications, which markets Contour, a platform based on the X1 blueprint, has been quietly selling Contour Stream since May for $5 a month to broadband-only customers. Contour Stream uses the same Xi6 client and Voice Remote as Flex.

Having the biggest operator give away streaming devices to all the cord-cutters in its footprint, and license the No. 4 U.S. cable operator to do the same, could help Comcast but also cause collateral damage in the video industry. Streaming device maker Roku, which has been one of the hottest companies in the OTT space, saw its stock price decline around 15% after the Xfinity Flex announcement.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!