Comcast Q4 video subscriber growth could help it license Xfinity to other cable MSOs

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Comcast will report later this month that it posted a modest net gain in video subscribers in the fourth quarter, CEO Brian Roberts said at a Citigroup conference in Las Vegas Tuesday.

With Comcast facing increased competition from both satellite TV providers and cable overbuilders, its performance in the fourth quarter is significant. Roberts noted that Comcast has lost video subscribers for 26 consecutive quarters, while it has improved on prior year results in 10 of the last 12 quarters. It is scheduled to report Q4 earnings on Jan. 28.

The rollout of Comcast's cloud-based X1 platform has contributed to subscriber growth, Roberts said, noting that the subscriber churn rate for X1 subscribers is lower, and that X1 subscribers have also generated higher pay-per-view buy rates than subscribers without X1. "We are going to accelerate the rollout of X1 over the next couple of years to get to the majority of our customers," Roberts said.

In addition to offering an improved interactive program guide that allows subscribers to search listings for live TV, video-on-demand and DVR programming, Comcast has used X1 to give subscribers the ability to watch subscription video programing on tablets and other mobile devices inside their homes. Comcast has also been talking to other cable operators about licensing the X1 platform, and the subscriber metrics it has seen from the platform could help those efforts.

"What's the best thing to do with a tablet? Consume video. Who has the most video? Us. How do we give you better search and navigation? Go to the cloud and be like the best in class, which we have the scale to do. If we can offer that to others, and they can ride that, terrific," Roberts added.

Also worth noting from Roberts' Citigroup appearance:

  • Comcast will launch a new Xfinity TV app in Boston this month that will allow subscribers to use mobile devices in their homes to watch live, VOD and DVR programming, Roberts said. The images Roberts showed attendees of the app are similar to the cloud DVR app that Comcast tested last summer, but Roberts didn't say if the app will access DVR recordings from physical DVRs in subscriber homes or a cloud-based DVR. The app will be available on Android and iOS devices, along with the Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire tablet, Roberts said. "We plan to roll it out through a lot of our company in 2014," he added.
  • Roberts declined to discuss reports about cable consolidation, including potential deals involving Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC). "We always say we look at everything. But there's no news today," Robert said.
  • Comcast has a high-speed Internet penetration rate of 38 percent, and sees opportunities to grow its broadband business, Roberts said. "We don't think we're anywhere near done," he added.

Related articles:
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Comcast sees 2014 Olympics as marketing opportunity for X2
Comcast testing cloud DVR app for iPad and iPhone
Comcast CEO Roberts touts voice-enabled remotes, new guide, faster speed at The Cable Show

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