One of the benefits to consumers of competition between cable, telcoTV, and DBS is innovation. All of these telecompetitors are looking to integrate new products into their TV and broadband experience that they hope will provide some sense of differentiation and create stickyness. Case in point is Comcast with their Skype on XFINITY product.
Skype on XFINITY integrates Skype video calling and instant messaging into the TV. The service is now available in Boston and Seattle and Comcast says eight additional markets will launch this week. The service requires subscribers to have an HDTV, Xfinity Internet service, an HDMI-capable Comcast cable set-top box, an HD video camera and adaptor (provided by Comcast), and a Skype account. Comcast will sell the service for $9.95/month.
“TV is rapidly evolving as a social experience, and Skype on Xfinity is bringing friends and family together to share life’s moments through the use of the largest screen in their homes. Skype on Xfinity is simple to set up and easy to use so that you can always feel like you’re there with friends and loved ones, even if physically you’re miles apart,” said Cathy Avgiris, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Communications and Data Services for Comcast in a Comcast press release.
The service can connect with any Skype user, regardless of whether they subscribe to the service from Comcast or not. Both video calls and instant messaging can be used while watching TV, using a picture-in-picture framework (a great feature for live sports). Tony Werner, Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer of Comcast claims in a Comcast Voices blog post that no other provider offers this feature, which is enabled through “HDMI passthrough capability.”