Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) will launch a cloud-based digital video product called X1 in several markets reaching several hundred thousand subscribers this year, CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday. The digital cable service, which Comcast has been testing on a system in Georgia, will offer a new user interface that includes social TV recommendations and access to Facebook, Pandora Internet radio and news and weather apps.
"It will radically improve the experience over time, but more importantly it is creating the unlocking mechanism for future innovation that will then reside on some of the best servers in the cloud," Roberts said on Comcast's fourth-quarter earnings call, noting that the cloud-based architecture would allow Comcast to offer new services "without ever having to come back to your house" with a cable technician. "Getting things into the cloud over the cable box will have broad implications over time," he added.
Comcast search and discovery senior director of product management Brian Curtis said in December that X1 will offer a "My TV" section on its program guide that will deliver personalized TV recommendations to customers. X1 will also integrate social TV recommendations from Facebook and other social networks.
Comcast has been testing X1 with about 1,000 homes in Augusta, Georgia, using set-tops from Pace (LSE: PIC). The cable MSO has called the tests of the cloud-based service Project Xcalibur, and had previously referred to the rollout as its "next generation Xfinity TV" service.
While Comcast hasn't said how much it will charge subscribers each month for X1, Comcast Cable Communications CEO Neil Smit referred to X1 as a "high end" video service on Wednesday's earnings call.
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