Comcast's Smit downplays Dish's Sling TV but says experimenting with packages is good

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) executives appeared undaunted by new OTT offerings such as Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) newly revealed Sling TV, which offers about a dozen channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and CNN for about $20 per month. However, they admitted that OTT offerings from Dish, CBS, HBO and others are driving more experimentation with content packages, which is good for the pay-TV industry and the consumer.

Speaking at Citigroup's 2015 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference Tuesday, Comcast Cable  EVP and CEO Neil Smit said that while OTT offerings such as Sling TV are interesting, when coupled with the cost of a high-speed broadband connection, Sling TV's cost is equivalent to a digital TV package from Comcast. "We offer a performance-based broadband product along with digital TV that includes ESPN and the broadcast networks for a price of $80," Smit said. "If you compare that to the $20 Dish OTT package plus broadband at $67 per month, we are a lower price."

Comcast Cable EVP and CTO Tony Werner added: "It's a higher price point for an inferior product."

Nevertheless, both executives admitted that these new OTT offerings are encouraging more experimentation with content bundles. "We believe in segmenting the audience," Smit said. "Some will want a full package. Some will want faster broadband and fewer channels. There will be tests and experimentation."

Werner added that one of the benefits of Comcast's X1 platform, which the company demonstrated at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show and is now deployed in about 20 percent of Comcast homes with a triple play, is that it is scalable and easy to innovate.

The Comcast executives also touched upon the company's continued growth in Wi-Fi hotspots, noting that 70 percent of mobile usage in the home is now over Wi-Fi. Smit said that average Xfinity Wi-Fi user consumes about 2.3 gigabytes of data per month, which is more than their average cellular data consumption.

However, Smit admitted that the cable company hasn't yet determined how to monetize that Wi-Fi usage. "We haven't determined the best way to monetize it, but we know it's a valuable asset," he said.

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