Comcast is totally okay with you not having an Xfinity set-top box

If you’d like to make use of the interface on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 set-top box—and you will have to, it’s incredible—however aren’t so certain concerning the box itself, keep tuned. By the top of 2018, more or less two-thirds of the clever TVs available on the market will have the ability to flow TV from Comcast natively, with out forcing you to futz with more than one inputs and more than one remotes to control your TV, cable box, and streaming tool.

Comcast is transferring past the box and porting the consumer interface for its chic, intuitive Xfinity X1 set-top box brick by way of virtual brick to four of the main clever TV running methods. The X1 interface is already to be had in beta for Roku TV clever TVs (from TCL, Hisense, and others) and Roku streaming units in addition to some Samsung clever TVs. The corporate has introduced plans to release in beta on Sony and LG clever TVs earlier than the top of 2018.

“Smart TVs are completely a part of our technique and our imaginative and prescient,” says Comcast’s Xfinity Services leader Matthew Strauss. “When you have a look at the video panorama these days, there are extra alternatives than have ever been to be had earlier than on the contact of a faraway. It’s a great time to be alive if you like tv.”

Related: Why the cable box must die (or a minimum of radically evolve)

The Xfinity Stream app, which is additionally to be had for iOS, Android, browsers, and cell browsers, carefully resembles the Xfinity X1 set-top box’s interface. Strauss says his product staff is actively growing the X1 interface for added platforms to roll out over the following 12 months. (The large closing TV platforms are Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Vizio’s SmartSolid OS, and quite a lot of gaming consoles.)

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Seen right here at the iPad, the Xfinity interface aggregates and highlights displays, daily.

No cable box required

This imaginative and prescient diverges sharply from the times when your pay-TV supplier provided you with a proprietary box—and charged you a per month condo price for the privilege of the usage of it—nevertheless it’s a part of a plan that Comcast has been operating on for awhile. “We suppose the way forward for TV will likely be a serve as of the way you combination it, how you contextualize it, and the way you personalize it,” says Strauss. “In Xfinity X1, which is nearer to a cloud infrastructure than a set-top box, we’ve constructed on an ambition to create a in point of fact built-in revel in.”

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Matthew Strauss [Photo: courtesy of Comcast]

If you’ve by no means pondered cable TV with out a set-top box, you’ll see one thing very surprising if you join Xfinity provider on-line. On the display screen that asks what number of set-top containers you’ll want, there’s a line that claims, “Interested in the usage of your personal video apparatus?” Yes, I might be. I’ve lived in Comcast markets my complete grownup existence, and I’ve made the trek to the corporate’s provider workplaces to select up a set-top box each time I’ve moved, had issues with a tool, or simply sought after the latest generation.

Set-top containers reminiscent of Comcast’s encrypt content material as a coverage towards piracy, gather Nielsen information for TV advertisers, supply options like DVR capacity and video on call for, and generate $22 billion globally for satellite tv for pc and native cable suppliers. And for years, they had been necessarily the one method to watch TV, past what you may recover from the air or by the use of recorded media. But then YouTube and streaming products and services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime gave audience lots to look at on their smartphones and extra not too long ago on streaming units and clever TVs. Now streaming bundlers like AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Google’s YouTube TV are presenting a extra direct danger to conventional TV suppliers at a sharply lower price.

With all that festival and as many as 5 million U.S. families ditching cable this 12 months, what’s the rustic’s largest cable supplier to do?

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Recommendations and widespread displays in Xfinity’s iPad app.

The smart-TV migration

To stay customers enticing with its provider—and from ditching it for streaming possible choices—Comcast is including and evolving options at a breakneck tempo, putting in them first at the Xfinity X1 set-top box that’s utilized in two-thirds of the corporate’s 22.3 million U.S. families after which rolling lots of them through the years to different units:

  • Like lots of its streaming competition’ interfaces, X1 is orientated round horizontal rows of tiles. Xfinity’s killer characteristic right here is its nightly rows—Tuesday Night Shows, Monday Night Shows—that make it simple to make amends for an evening of programming, in addition to a row known as Just Aired that displays what’s to be had that evening.
  • A brand new characteristic that Strauss calls “quick on-demand,” which makes a display to be had on call for the second one it starts airing are living, has simply begun rolling out to X1. In some circumstances, X1 is making displays to be had earlier than they air are living.
  • X1 has the standard top rate networks—HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, Epix—to be had so as to add in your subscription, however during the last 12 months has been including dozens of area of interest products and services like Acorn TV (British displays), Eros Now (Bollywood motion pictures), and InterestStream (science documentaries) and melding them into its curated lists of content material.
  • Comcast subscribers had been in a position to authenticate their Netflix subscription at the Xfinity X1 set-top box since past due 2016 and join Netflix since April 2018. “You can do this with one click on on X1 and feature it cross proper onto your Comcast invoice,” Strauss says.
  • In the approaching months, Comcast is set to enroll in Movies Anywhere, a application that syncs lots of the films you’ve ever bought on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and FandangoNOW to be had throughout all of the ones platforms. Xfinity TV consumers who choose into Movies Anywhere will have the ability to watch the ones titles throughout the entire Xfinity TV platforms.
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The Xfinity iPad app’s view web page.

The Netflix integration, which Comcast has not but expanded but to clever TV platforms, is an excellent instance of constructing the X1 platform sticky, so customers get what they would like with out having to depart the provider to get it. An X1 consumer authenticated to Netflix will see all eight seasons of The Walking Dead—seven on Netflix and the 8th on AMC—offered in combination.

“Pay-TV suppliers wish to retain subscribers, so that they wish to make certain that you keep within their ecosystem,” says Brett Sappington, a media analyst at Parks Associates. “If you don’t have a explanation why to depart their platform—and there’s information to beef up this—you’re a lot more prone to keep with that supplier. You don’t have to modify inputs or alternate apps for your TV. It’s all excellent there.”

Video suppliers—reminiscent of Comcast, Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and ESPN+, in addition to big-budget products and services launching subsequent 12 months from Disney and (most certainly) Apple—are competing with every different on your viewing mins on the concept that you’ll stick with the products and services you watch probably the most. That’s the most productive reason behind why HBO’s new proprietor, AT&T, is making plans to noticeably build up the quantity of HBO’s programming.

Comcast may in the end release its personal direct-to-consumer streaming providing, which doesn’t suppose you’re additionally paying for Comcast broadband. For now, alternatively, it’s extra invested in video as a mechanism for making its successful broadband provider stickier forward of AT&T and Verizon coming after that industry with rapid 5G provider. “Comcast already has the aptitude to head direct to user,” Sappington says, “so it’s only a topic of whether or not it turns into their industry fashion.”

For the instant, a minimum of, Comcast’s marketing strategy for TV is to make its X1 interface ubiquitous on clever TVs and to stay you gazing.