Q&A: Comcast exec on the future of the cable bundle
NEW YORK — Faced with competition from the internet, Comcast has turned its X1 TV set-top box into something resembling a Roku or Apple TV streaming player, complete with app-like menus and a voice-activated remote. During the Olympics, X1 merged both TV and online videos to give viewers a one-stop experience.
Matt Strauss, executive vice-president of Comcast’s Xfinity services, spoke with The Associated Press recently about the company’s Olympic ambitions and the future of television. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Why are you spending so much effort on an event that lasts just two weeks?
A: The focus has been around how we push the envelope to create experiences that are not only great for the Olympics but also become a sandbox for us to learn. This is just a great opportunity to experiment.
Q: During the Olympics, Comcast has “virtual” channels of streaming video, similar to music playlists. Why is this needed when all the events are already available on demand?
A: A lot of viewers like more of a lean-back experience, which has been known as TV. In some ways, if you think what a network is, it’s just a playlist. Somebody is programming a channel 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have the technology to challenge the paradigm of what it means to be a network. Every sport now has a channel. Athletes can have a channel. We can create channels around biggest upsets or wildest crashes or funniest moments. This is allowing us to say, “You like snowboarding? There’s a snowboarding channel.”
Q: Comcast offers a package of TV channels delivered over the internet, similar to YouTube TV and Sling TV. Why aren’t you selling this outside your “footprint” — markets where Comcast already offers regular TV services?
A: That’s a very crowded space. There are so many opportunities to bundle services within our footprint profitably that it’s a much bigger priority than looking at a video-only service out of footprint, which some seem to be selling at a loss.
Q: If you’ve invested so much in X1 and traditional cable TV, why offer an internet TV package at all?
A: We’re creating a portfolio of products and services with the goal of trying to get the right product to the right customer at the right time of their life. We know there are segments that maybe are not heavy video viewers or they don’t want to spend disposable income on video.
Q: Is the old-fashioned TV bundle on its way out?
A: Video actually is a great value based on how much is being consumed. What’s changed is there are segments of this population who don’t necessarily see a value in the bundle or have access to other choices. That’s where we need to ensure that we are continuing to challenge ourselves and offering customers more choice and flexibility.
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