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Comcast wants to go global on smart TVs, CEO says

Confirming an earlier report, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said the company is exploring a plan to deploy its video tech stack to smart TVs across the globe.

"We're early days, but we're looking at smart TVs on a global basis, and we're wondering can we bring our same tech stack for certain capabilities in [content] aggregation to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs?" Roberts said Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs 29th Annual Communacopia Conference.

Comcast, he pointed out, has already syndicated its X1 platform to multiple US and Canadian cable operators. "We see a similar roadmap possibly for that" with smart TVs, Roberts said.

NBCU's Peacock is the second most popular app on Comcast's Flex platform, just behind Netflix, and the third most popular app on X1 boxes, behind Netflix and YouTube, Roberts said.
NBCU's Peacock is the second most popular app on Comcast's Flex platform, just behind Netflix, and the third most popular app on X1 boxes, behind Netflix and YouTube, Roberts said.

Roberts didn't identify which TV makers Comcast has approached with the idea, but the confirmation about the strategy comes about three weeks after Protocol reported that Comcast was looking into the possibility of extending its X1 platform to connected TVs. Such a move would help Comcast generate more scale for its technologies and platforms, but would also put it in more direct competition with streaming giants such as Roku, Amazon (Fire TV) and Google (Android TV and Chromecast).

The smart TV plan is part of a broader initiative. Comcast, Roberts explained, is developing a global IP video platform based on a common tech stack, standardized hardware and content aggregation platform that ties in Comcast, UK-based Sky and NBCUniversal.

Here are some other nuggets from Roberts' chat at Communacopia:

  • Comcast has deployed more than 2 million Flex boxes, double the amount reported in May. Comcast started to offer Flex, a video streaming and smart home service, for free to broadband-only customers about a year ago. "This may be one of the fastest-ramping products we've ever had," Roberts said.

  • Peacock, the new streaming service from NBCU, now has 15 million sign-ups about two months after Peacock launched nationally on July 15. Roberts said Peacock is now the No. 2 watched app on Flex, behind Netflix, and is the No. 3 app on X1 boxes, behind Netflix and YouTube.

  • Comcast continues to blow the doors off of broadband sub growth. Comcast is still closing out its third quarter 2020 results, but the company will add more than 500,000 broadband subs in the quarter, thumping a record of 492,000 net adds set in Q1 2008, Roberts said. Comcast is also on track for full 2020 to "greatly exceed" the 1.4 million broadband subs it added for all of 2019.

  • Roberts continues to like Comcast's MVNO relationship with Verizon, noting that the cable op gets to reap the benefits of Verizon's mobile network enhancements and upgrades. At the same time, Comcast, which recently bid for and won some licensed CBRS spectrum, will look for opportunities to lower its MVNO costs. Over time, Comcast will build out its own wireless network and cellular infrastructure to supplement the Verizon network "to reap even higher cost savings in ... highly dense mobile traffic areas," Roberts said.


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