Comcast has set its sights on “owning the home,” said Matt Strauss, executive vice president of Xfinity Services for Comcast Cable, at a financial conference today. Strauss cited an example of how that Comcast strategy might be implemented: People using Comcast’s home control offering, dubbed Xfinity Home, could see an image on the TV screen of any person who uses a Xfinity Home-connected doorbell.
Strauss contrasted the amount of time people spend watching television every day – about four to five hours on average – with the way they use their smartphones. He said he checks his phone 100 to 200 times a day and never turns it off.
“What if I said ‘I never want you to turn off the TV?’” said Strauss. “If you start going down that path, you start thinking of the TV as a display.”
Comcast recently signed up its one millionth Xfinity Home customer and the number of customers doubled over the past year, Strauss noted.
Strauss sees Comcast’s X1 control platform as a path for the company to own the home. He argued, for example, that the X1’s voice-controlled remote control has been “transformational.” The platform is supporting one billion voice commands per quarter, he said.
Voice control could help Comcast own the home by, for example, enabling customers to arm their home security system using a voice command.
X1 also gives Comcast an advantage in the company’s traditional video market, Strauss said.
“Some will say the future is apps but I would say the future is aggregation and we’re the aggregator of aggregators,” Strauss added. Customers like the fact that they can use X1 to search for content on over-the-top streaming video services such as Sling TV and Netflix as well as Comcast content, he noted. About 55% of Comcast customers have the X1 platform today – a number that will rise to 60% by the end of the year, according to Strauss.
Despite the importance of the TV screen, however, mobile viewing options continue to be an important area for Comcast. Forty percent of customers use the company’s TV Everywhere streaming app, Strauss said.
Instant TV Trials
Strauss also offered an update on the company’s trials of a skinny bundle video offering delivered over the Comcast broadband network, rather than its traditional cable network. After trials in Chicago and Boston, the company plans to launch the offering, dubbed Instant TV, across its entire footprint.
There has always been a market segment that selects a service provider based primarily on broadband, with video secondary, Strauss said. A key question about that segment is “how to attach the right video product to that customer,” he observed.
While these customers may be price sensitive, they also may like over-the-top video simply for its convenience. Instant TV targets those customers by enabling them to download an app and try the offering at no charge for 30 days. Comcast plans to be “very surgical” in launching Instant TV more broadly so as not to cannibalize existing services, Strauss said, noting that the company can easily identify broadband-only customers.
Comcast learned two key things from Instant TV trials, according to Strauss.
- Although some people are “mobile first,” you still have to give them a way to watch content on their TV, which Comcast does via a Roku device.
- You have to give people the option to add on content packages because while they like the idea of a skinny bundle, it may not satisfy them.
Strauss made his comments at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, which was also webcast.