Comcast would very much like to keep you glued to its X1 DVR service anytime you’re in the living room—and by partnering with Netflix, it’s taken another step down that road.
The two companies said Tuesday that they’re working together to bring the Netflix service to Comcast’s Xfinity X1, the next-generation set-top box that Comcast has deployed to 35 percent of its user base.
“Comcast and Netflix have reached an agreement to incorporate Netflix into X1, providing seamless access to the great content offered by both companies,” the companies said in a joint statement. “We have much work to do before the service will be available to consumers later this year. We’ll provide more details at that time.”
Why this matters: As USA Today notes, Netflix has done deals with other set-top makers, including Dish Network, Frontier, and TiVo, plus Bell Canada and U.K. providers BT and Virgin Media. Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings has also been rather outspoken about how he disliked paying Comcast for better video connections, and opposed Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. The two have apparently seen fit to bury the hatchet, however.
How this deal could affect you
As the screen above shows, Comcast hasn’t done a great job rolling out apps for its X1 platform—there aren’t many useful apps available beyond sports scores, for example. What will be interesting, though, is if Comcast treats Netflix as an app—complete with its own interface—or as a “bucket” of content that you can dive into. An X1 subscriber can easily access on-demand “movies on premium networks” using the X1 service—but there’s hardly any indication as to which network is supplying that content: Starz, Showtime, HBO, etc. That’s true even for exclusive shows, such as Game of Thrones.
Another interesting angle is whether Netflix will allow Comcast access to its data such as ratings and categories. Netflix allows users to rank each show, and uses a variety of algorithms, including time spent, common actors, and more, to decide whether you’d like to watch a related show as well. Nothing like that appears on X1. Both Comcast and X1 do suggest shows based on what you’ve watched previously, but Netflix also breaks out specific categories of movies and TV that are relevant.
Of course, a Netflix user has to scroll, or search, or otherwise dig through Netflix’s pages of content to see all of its recommendations. That’s where Comcast could contribute. X1’s voice interface is surprisingly excellent, requiring zero training and usually working flawlessly. Combining Netflix’s ratings and the X1’s voice-search capability could benefit both platforms. We’ll have to see how it all shakes out.
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