In the past week Comcast has made two different announcements which when taking together massively increases the access to streaming-based content for Xfinity X1 customers, thanks to newly-added support for both Prime Video and Movies Anywhere.
Prime Video finally arrives on the Xfinity X1
Comcast and Amazon first announced the start of a new partnership in August along with confirming that in due course Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service would become available to users of an Xfinity X1 set-top box. Although at the time no firm information was provided on when that app integration would actually happen. In the latest announcement this week, Comcast confirmed the Prime Video app is now ready for the Xfinity X1 and will become available to users nationwide over the course of the next week. At which point Xfinity X1 users will be able to take advantage of all of the same features afforded to users of Prime Video on other platforms, including access to a decent amount of content for free, providing they also happen to have an active Prime membership. This includes access to all of Amazon’s original programming such as Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and The Man in the High Castle.
Movies Anywhere support adds even more choice
Following the Prime Video integration announcement Comcast also this week confirmed Xfinity X1 customers can now access Movies Anywhere directly from their set-top box. This is a slightly different proposition to Prime Video as Movies Anywhere is more about providing access to content you already own, but on different devices. Unlike a traditional app which typically only provides access to the app-maker’s content, Movies Anywhere allows users to link different digital stores and have the different purchased libraries from each store grouped together for easier access under one app. For example. Xfinity X1 users will now be able to access movies they have purchased through VUDU, Google Play, Microsoft Store, Amazon, iTunes, and FandangoNOW all through the Movies Anywhere app - providing the user links their accounts for each of these services to the app.
As the Xfinity platform has now joined the Movies Anywhere program, this also now means users will be able to access content purchased through the Xfinity Store in the Movies Anywhere app. This in turn additionally means customers can access Xfinity Store-purchased content on other devices where the Movies Anywhere app is also available and installed. There are some restrictions to this service, however, as only a limited number of movie studios have signed up to the Movies Anywhere program and content purchased that’s owned by a non-compatible studio will not be accessible on any of the Movies Anywhere-supported devices, including the Xfinity X1.
Comcast continues to extend support to streaming services, to a limit
Both of these announcements represent the approach Comcast has taken recently to ensure it does not fall victim to the same issues plaguing the pay-TV world in general. As Comcast has been quick to see that consumer demand for access to streamed content has at times resulted in customers moving away from traditional pay-TV providers in favor of options that not only provide more open access to curated content, but are also more affordable. As a means to address this issue from happening to its own customer base, Comcast has proactively been looking at ways in which it can provide access to some of the most popular streaming services without consumers having to use or purchase additional devices. For example, Comcast has already added the option for Xfinity X1 customers to access both YouTube and Netflix in the past, and these latest announcements build on that same approach with access now opened up to two additional and popular streaming apps.
Comcast is largely trying to establish its hardware options as one-stop solutions before customers fully embrace a cord-cutting lifestyle. While the third-party box market is growing rapidly, it still requires additional costs and there can be a learning curve involved which might be off-putting to some consumers. Comcast sees value and opportunity in this as by opening the door just wide enough to third-party services (that only partly compete at the product level with its own services), then it might manage to maintain those customers for longer. After all, if you are an Xfinity customer and are only looking for access to YouTube, Netflix, and Prime Video, Comcast now has you covered. For those looking for even more of a cord-cutting-like experience, Comcast also has a new box on the way just for you.
Comcast’s latest hardware solution will still be limited
If all the details are to be taken on face value then while Comcast will soon offer more of a cord-cutter streaming box, it will still be a little limited. This is due to the information that has come through pointing to Comcast’s intention to launch a streaming device that's inherently designed to work best with its own services. In other words, users will only have access to some third-party content and services and not the option to choose to the same degree that’s currently available through existing third-party streaming devices. In reality this is not that different to Amazon’s approach to its Fire TV line of products as they also heavily lean towards a Prime membership for full functionality.
Comcast is also not alone in this approach as AT&T is seemingly going down an almost identical route with its latest hardware solution as this will be a device that relies on the user having a DIRECTV NOW subscription. The difference between AT&T and Comcast’s solutions is that you can in theory download and run any app via AT&T's option - including services that compete with DIRECTV NOW, such as Sling TV or YouTube TV. Although that difference is primarily just a theoretical difference as consumers are unlikely to pay for two live TV services at the same time, and AT&T’s box is understood to only work properly if it’s paired with an active DIRECTV NOW subscription. The same sort of deal, without the option to download competing services, is expected to be in play with Comcast’s streaming device when it launches.