Comcast enables extras on X1 movie purchases, now wields Walmart-like control over home entertainment

Comcast Xfinity X1 set top box
Comcast offers around 100 titles with extras on its X1 platform. It quietly cut its teeth including such bonus material on Universal titles before seeking to partner with rival movie studios. Image: Comcast

Showing that it now has the juice Walmart once enjoyed in home entertainment, Comcast will partner with four major studios to launch what it calls “Enhanced Movie Extras” for movies purchased through the X1 video platform.

These extras will include the usual photo galleries and video clips, as well as what Comcast describes as “dynamic, interactive, and contextually-integrated internet content directly within the movie-watching experience.”

The extras will be found not only on Universal Pictures Home Entertainment titles, but also those originating from Lionsgate, Paramount and Sony. 

"X1 is an immersive, dynamic platform that enables us to continually provide our customers with one-of-a-kind experiences, and we are actively working with our programming partners to deliver next-generation, enhanced entertainment experiences for all content including movies, events, sports, and news,” said Daniel Spinosa, GM of movies, pay-per-view and commerce at Comcast Cable, in a statement.

The concept of “extras” dates back, of course, to the DVD era. And Comcast’s ability to get three other studios involved in the program is a bit reminiscent of how Walmart used to bend the major studios to its will during the height of optical disc sales a decade ago. Back in those days, studios used to release DVDs with exclusive disc content through Walmart, which controlled the lions-share of disc sales. 

Of course, those were the good ol’ days, with home entertainment spending reaching $24 billion in 2006. The revenue mark won’t come close to that this year, but the sector is improving, with revenue up 4% in the third quarter, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, and entering the big fourth quarter at $13 billion.

Comcast now offers around 100 titles with extras. It quietly cut its teeth including such bonus material on Universal titles before seeking to partner with rival movie studios.

“These experiences are highly produced, engaging and employ the latest technology to bring the content to life on Xfinity in a manner fans haven’t seen before,” said Thomas Hughes, executive VP of worldwide digital distribution for Lionsgate. “Building a collection of their favorite films with enhanced content that can be enjoyed seamlessly in their living rooms offers even more value to the Comcast customer.”

Comcast is giving X1 customers a free 10-day sample of the content, including interactive experiences for Secret Life of Pets, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, Nerve and Warcraft, through Dec. 25. Enhanced extras for Universal's upcoming animated film, Sing, will also be part of the free trial.