Comcast is testing a new set-top-box which attempts to inject some web interactivity into their standard pay-TV model. The project, code named ‘Xcalibur’ is being tested in Augusta, Ga according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some of the new features include allowing subscribers to search for and view limited web content on their TV and do some limited social networking through Facebook and other social networking sites. Think of it as a Google TV ‘lite’ for Comcast subscribers.
News of forays into TV 2.0 for companies like Comcast is not surprising. Efforts from Google, Apple, Netflix, and other OTT providers compel traditional video service providers to explore these options. For Comcast though, there is a more immediate threat.
In fact, Comcast is a little late to the party. While they have been somewhat ahead of the pack on TV Everywhere initiatives — which in a nutshell, expands viewing options for TV content to other devices like laptops — they’ve been a little slow in innovating the entertainment experience on the TV itself.
Other analysts argue Xcalibur is a response to threats from the likes of Google TV. But I think Comcast is really reacting to more immediate threats, namely FiOS TV and U-verse TV. Both of these telcoTV offers are ahead of Comcast relative to new interactivity on the TV from the web and other apps.
Both Verizon and AT&T have managed to harness IP applications for the TV entertainment experience faster than Comcast, at least for the time being. FiOS TV and U-verse TV represent a far greater threat to Comcast than Google or Apple, by a long shot, at least for the near to mid-term.
Xcalibur is Comcast’s attempt to catch up.