Comcast Gears for Nationwide Rollout of Next Generation Xfinity TV Set-Top

Comcast (NAS: CMCSA) is preparing for a nationwide rollout of its new Xfinity TV set-top, which will incorporate content from Facebook and other websites, a top executive said at CTAM Thursday.

"Our intention is to really change the navigation experience," Comcast Converged Products president Sam Schwartz said at the conference, explaining how Comcast will deliver a new user interface and interactive program guide through the set-top that allows subscribers to easily navigate between live and on-demand programming.

Comcast has been testing Xfinity TV, which has the code name Xcalibur, in Augusta, Ga. About 1,000 homes are in the trial, which uses set-tops supplied by Pace. "Next year is when we take it across the country," Schwartz said.

Comcast hopes Xfinity TV help it compete more effectively against advanced TV products from Verizon's (NYS: VZ) FiOS TV, AT&T's (NYS: T) U-verse TV, DirecTV (NAS: DTV) and Dish Network (NAS: DISH) . The MSO is testing just four apps that can be accessed through the TV in the Augusta trial -- Facebook, Pandora Internet radio, and news and weather apps. Schwartz said the company plans to announce additional apps, but didn't provide any other details.

Verizon offers its FiOS TV subscribers access to about 20 apps through its FiOS TV widget bazaar, including Facebook, HSN Shop By Remote, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube, ESPN Fantasy Games, news feeds from Associated Press and TMZ, and casual games such as Sudoku and Hangman.

Schwartz said Comcast is also focused on allowing its subscribers to access online video content from their cable subscriptions on multiple devices, citing the agreement the MSO announced earlier this week with Microsoft. That deal allows Comcast subscribers to use the Xbox to access TV Everywhere online video content.

Asked by CTAM panel moderator Leslie Ellis if Xbox owners with Kinect motion-control cameras would be able to "navigate Matrix style," referring to the sci-fi movie in which the stars used their hands to navigate computers -- Schwartz said, "yep."

Schwartz spoke on a CTAM panel about connected TVs and devices. Also worth noting from the panel, which included Pandora VP of business development Ian Geller, LG Electroncis director of smart TV innovation and alliances Kurt Hoppe, and Roku VP of marketing Charles Seiber:

  • Hoppe said more than 50 percent of consumers who buy an LG TV that can be connected to the Internet via WiFi connect to the Internet.

  • Netflix (NAS: NFLX) is the most popular app accessed by viewers with LG connected TVs, Hoppe said.

  • The "vast majority" of consumers who buy an over-the-top video set-top from Roku are also cable or satellite subscribers, Seiber said, suggesting that the devices aren't driving cord cutting.

  • Schwartz said that Comcast isn't seeing cord cutting in its markets. "People are spending more time at home. They're going out less, traveling less, moving out of houses a little bit less. They're finding it's cheaper to subscribe to cable for a month than it is to go out to a movie for one night," he added.

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