Comcast video chief Strauss: Limited stream capability will keep DirecTV Now as ‘very targeted’ product


AT&T’s pending launch of virtual MVPD service DirecTV Now will not have major competitive implications to Comcast because of the “highly targeted” nature of the IP-based platform, the MSO’s video chief said.

“There’s still a lot things that are unknown, like what the channels are, whether it will include all the broadcast networks and their affiliates, and whether it will have a DVR,” said Matthew Strauss, executive VP and general manager of video services for Comcast, speaking at the Wells Fargo Media, Tech and Telecom Conference in New York. 

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“What has been confirmed is that it will have limited streams,” Strauss added. “That tells us that it will be a very targeted, segmented product that [AT&T] is looking to bring to market.”

Strauss is among a number of pay-TV executives being asked a lot these days about their competitive response to AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which will stream more than 100 channels for $35 a month. 

He said Comcast already has products like Internet Plus, which bundle broadband with the Big Four broadcast networks, HBO and Netflix for under $40. Factoring in the inclusion of broadband service, Strauss said, Internet Plus compares favorably to DirecTV Now. 

“[DirecTV Now customers] may end up paying more for less,” he added. “You’ll see us introduce more products like Internet Plus.”

Interviewed by Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker, Strauss delivered his usual sales pitch for Comcast X1 platform: 32 straight quarters of reduced churn, 170,000 net positive pay-TV subscribers through three quarters, 45 percent penetration on the Comcast footprint.

Notably, Ryvicker took a moment to editorialize, commenting how many folks in the video industry don’t realize how Comcast has “decoupled” itself from the rest of the video industry with the superiority of the X1 video platform. 

Other notable comments from Strauss’ Wells Fargo appearance: Comcast expects the Xfinity Voice Remote to be fully deployed across its footprint next year; and the MSO doesn’t make much money directly from syndicating a white-label version of X1 to Cox Communications and Shaw Communications. 

“But it does give us scale and it allows us to do more R&D,” Strauss said. “We also have more exposure for X1 outside of our footprint, which opens the door to things like advertising and data.”