Comcast says X1 video platform could show up on less expensive hardware

Comcast X1 could show up on other devices. (Comcast)

Comcast’s X1 video platform today is typically associated with the cable provider’s premium and pricey cable bundles and high-end customer premises equipment. But Comcast may be looking at ways to expand X1 to other devices.

Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson, speaking today at a Deutsche Bank investor conference, said X1 is extendable and called it a platform that can go “deeper into other profitable segments.”

“We’ll look for ways to extend X1 into more broadband-focused segments over time,” Watson said. That means the X1 platform experience could be run on less expensive hardware solutions that may have an easier time reaching other video segments.

Watson also wanted to make it clear that the entire video category is very competitive in a couple of different ways. But he said that X1 is positioned well in the market as a platform for aggregating a lot of disparate video services.

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“If I’m a direct-to-consumer video provider, I’d want to be on X1,” said Watson. “We’ll think about those applications over time. But at the same time, because of all this consumer choice, we’re just not going to chase video. We’ll stay very centered on broadband, package video where it makes sense and do that properly.”

When asked about trends in video net adds in the near-term, Watson didn’t give specific guidance but did warn that the video marketplace will remain tough and competitive.

“We’re simply not going to chase unprofitable video segments,” Watson said.

During the most recent quarter, Comcast brought down its net video subscriber losses to 29,000, a small improvement over the 33,000 it lost one year ago. But after factoring in the fourth quarter, Comcast lost a total of 370,000 video subscribers during 2018, more than double the 151,000 video subscribers it lost in 2017.

According to Leichtman Research Group, Comcast ended 2018 with nearly 22 million video subscribers.

As Comcast navigates some disruptions in its traditional video distribution business, the company’s NBCUniversal business segment is preparing to launch a hybrid ad-supported and subscription video streaming service in 2020.

The service will draw on NBCUniversal’s content library along with licensed content and original programming. It will run on top of Comcast and Sky’s technology platforms and will be made available at no cost to NBCUniversal’s pay TV subscribers in the U.S. and international markets. Comcast Cable and Sky will provide the service to their combined 52 million subscribers.

NBCU said it will also sell an ad-free version of the service, but it did not disclose how much that option will cost. The company also plans to sell subscription access to the service for non-pay TV customers.