Comcast's Roberts: X1 OIympics presentation will be 'glimpse of the future of television'

BOSTON-- Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) will make an unprecedented amount of Summer Olympics coverage on its NBCUniversal channels a showcase for the advanced capabilities of its X1 set-top.

Speaking on today's keynote panel at INTX, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said the nearly 6,000 hours of combined Rio Games coverage available on X1 will offer "a real glimpse at the future of television," which viewers able to access virtually any event — live or on-demand — and augment the viewing experience with X1 interactive features. 

"It will be a complete takeover of the X1 platform," he said.

Roberts also said he expects X1 penetration to cover nearly half of Comcast's footprint of around 22 million pay-TV homes by the time the Summer Olympic Games torch is lit in July.

Rio will be the first "live Olympics" to be broadcast in the U.S. since the Atlanta Games back in 1996 — meaning they are in a same time zone. Whereas NBC broadcasted 172 events in '96, 262 events will be shown this time around, generating enough content to run 250 straight days without interruption.

NBCU's Olympics coverage — which will span its various cable and broadcast networks — will be augmented by the Xfinity Sports app. To show off the functionality, Roberts demoed a clip of the 2012 Games swimming event featuring Gold Medalist Michael Phelps. X1 users can see lane assignments in the right side of their screen using the sports app and the X1 Voice Remote. Selecting individual swimmers can access such extras as press-conference footage and tear-jerking personal stories.

"Every event will be synched up with extras like this," Roberts said. 

After the Olympics portion of his keynote presentation, Roberts was then sat down for a one-on-one with CNBC's Julie Boorstin — which was about as provocative as you might expect, given who the news anchor's employer is.

Roberts was pointed when asked about the FCC's "Unlock the Box" proposal on pay-TV set-tops: "Now would be the worst time to start regulating," he told Boorstin, noting that innovation in video services is already occurring at a rapid pace.

Next, Roberts moved on to a lunchtime press conference at Comcast's booth, where he tepidly responded to a range of interesting questions.

"Stand by" he remarked when asked about Comcast's plans to launch a 5G mobile network.

He conceded that the regional sports networks business needs "rethinking," with consumers and operators beginning to push back on pricey channels like TWC SportNet LA and the Yes Network.

And he said the ability of virtual reality to make viewers of sports events and concerts "feel like they are there" makes VR a technology "that makes a lot of sense." 

Through its venture arm, Comcast is funding companies like live-events broadcaster NextVR, but Roberts offered no timeline as to when the company will launch its first VR product. 

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