The cable MSOs have long been accused of lagging in product innovation while boosting prices. Meanwhile, web-based services like Netflix and Hulu have grown market share, helping create a new demographic of “cord nevers.” But over the last few months, Comcast is fighting back, unleashing a barrage of new products: second-screen Xfinity apps, a cloud-based set-top experience, social TV integration and now its own streaming service, Streampix.
Streampix will take flight this week (press release), leveraging content deals with Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers and its own NBCUniversal. The service will be available to Xfinity subscribers — only to subscribers — for $4.99 a month (or bundled with bigger packages), broadening its current on-demand slate by 75,000 television shows and movies. Subscribers will be able to watch online, via their cable box, on their iPads and iPhones. In “the coming year,” Comcast says Streampix will be available on Android and Xbox 360.
A peek at Comcast’s recent patent finding reveals a treasure trove of social TV products, many of which would work well in a Streampix experience, from trending shows and friend recommendations to social rewards. Social TV is all about data, and Comcast will have tons of it: viewing behavior across live TV, DVR, on-demand/streaming, second-screen viewing, second-screen remote control, etc. This could enable some amazing cross-platform social TV experiences as well as synchronized interactive advertising.
And today, Canoe Ventures — which was formed by the six largest U.S. cable operators, including Comcast — is shutting down its interactive TV advertising operations. The MSOs elected not to back the project further, Broadcasting & Cable reports.
Comcast is suddenly the most aggressive MSO so far in launching new products to compete in a new world of television. And it appears to be pushing into social TV faster than Netflix itself. But as the company explains, it’s not about competing with Netflix per se, but with everyone else. “We didn’t set out to go after Netflix’s business,” said Marcien Jenckes, senior VP and GM of video services at Comcast. “We set out to create the most compelling multichannel offering to compete with DirecTV or Verizon Fios.”
And since the service is only available to Xfinity subscribers, it really isn’t aimed at Netflix, as Variety explains. However, Netflix’s stock price took a little hit today (4-5%), and the company is stepping up its content acquisition and distribution efforts. It announced Tuesday that it reached a deal with Weinstein Co. for rights to stream the Academy Award-nominated movie “The Artist” and other programming. Then today, it announced a new distribution channel: Playstation’s new Vita. Netflix members can start playing a title on their TV through PlayStation 3, and resume watching on PS Vita right where they left off.
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