Comcast CEO Touts Netflix Access for X1 Subscribers

Brian Steinberg

Comcast subscribers may soon view Netflix as just another programming option alongside USA, Food Network and ESPN.

The top executive at the Philadelphia cable-and-entertainment giant expects the bulk of subscribers to the company’s X1 interactive operating system to have access to Netflix before Thanksgiving. Speaking to investors at a conference organized by Goldman Sachs, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts demonstrated to the audience how subscribers could search for programming through both X1 and Netflix, and then, if they wanted to watch a program offered only by the popular subscription-video-on-demand outlet, subsequently log in or even choose to subscribe and continue watching.

“Our organization has made the conscious decision that we are going to aggregate other people’s content, some of which we will sell directly and some of which we don’t,” said Roberts.  He said Comcast could do deals with other video-streaming players, and suggested a recent deal brokered with Netflix to make its service available via X1 could serve as a “template” of sorts for other potential alliances. Roberts did not disclose any terms of how Comcast and Netflix might divide revenue from sale of subscriptions.

Comcast and Netflix on Monday revealed the availability of the SVOD service via a “beta” test on X1. Customers who subscribe to both services can watch programming live, via on demand or through Netflix all through a single interface – conceivably making it as easy to watch a Netflix series like “Stranger Things” or a past season of “Breaking Bad” as swiftly as they might tune into a CBS program like “NCIS.”

Roberts hinted at other things to come as well: He indicated Comcast would launch a mobile service by the middle of 2017. He suggested the area is one Comcast is asked about repeatedly. Under the plan, Comcast would tap leased airwaves from Verizon Communications and make use of its own 15 million Wi-Fi hotspots. Roberts touted the idea as one that would not require investments in infrastructure. “We will have more to say next year,”  he said, adding: “There is a lot to do. We have retail locations. We have many customer interaction points. We want to do it right and do it well.”

Comcast’s market moves take place as many traditional distributors of video grapple with a rising generation of customers who gain access to video entertainment through other, often cheaper means. A subscription to Hulu, for example, is often cheaper than some of Comcast’s broader programming packages. Comcast said it lost 4,000 video customers in its recently completed second quarter, compared with 69,000 in the year-earlier period.

Roberts said his company had grown more focused on enhancing its consumers’ experience, and putting subscribers’ needs first.

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