Comcast

Comcast Xfinity X1 set top box
While smaller cable operators have retrenched from the video business amid the over-the-top insurgency, and others have tried to trim program bundles and price points, Comcast continues to double down on the feature-rich X1 platform.

Grade: A-

While most of the other linear pay-TV operators saw their customer bases erode in 2016, Comcast actually grew subscribers by 161,000 last year. And despite a record-bad second quarter for the industry, the No. 1 cable company is narrowly in the green this year, adding 41,000 subscribers in the first quarter and losing only 34,000 in the second quarter.

While smaller cable operators have retrenched from the video business amid the over-the-top insurgency, and others have tried to trim program bundles and price points, Comcast continues to double down on the feature-rich X1 platform, on which Comcast continues to stack software functionality. From voice remote integration to the platform’s growing ability to integrate various OTT services such as Netflix and YouTube, and surface desired programming from hundreds of channels, there is no more advanced video UX in the pay-TV ecosystem. 

Of course, it doesn’t come cheap.

Starting out at $90 a month for more than 140 channels (a two-year promo offer), X1 is hardly an economical option, especially compared to $35-a-month and under packages offered by virtual MVPD providers. 

But quarter after quarter since the X1 platform debuted in 2012, the company has reduced the once sizable churn of its video business. 

As of the end of the second quarter, Comcast said X1 is now in 55% of its residential customers’ homes. Comcast reported a 3.9% uptick in second-quarter video revenue to $5.797 billion for the quarter. Programming cost spiked 12% for Comcast in the second quarter—a metric that was high, the company said, due to a rash of renewals occurring in the second quarter.

And it’s important to note: Despite the noise made last year when the number of Xfinity broadband subscribers surpassed video customers, that video revenue number greatly surpasses both high-speed internet ($3.679 billion in second-quarter revenue) and business services ($1.531 billion in the second quarter), the two areas where other cable companies have been retreating.

We’re dinging Comcast’s grade slightly based on customer perception issues that may be tied to its longstanding customer service problems more than anything else. In fact, Comcast’s score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranking of pay-TV providers actually slid 6%, with the company ranking next to last behind Mediacom. 

Comcast

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