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Comcast Tests IP Video Service Targeted To Universities

Set-Top-Free ‘Xfinity On Campus’ Service Debuts At Boston’s Emerson College 11/08/2013 6:59 AM Eastern

Philadelphia – Comcast is taking IP video to school.

The MSO has begun to test an IP video service tailored for college students that doesn’t require set-top boxes or costly truck rolls, Marcien Jenckes, the executive vice president of consumer services at Comcast Cable, said Thursday (November 7).

Jenckes, the keynote speaker here at the “Impressions Everywhere” event put on by the Comcast Spotlight unit at the Comcast Center, said the operator introduced the service a couple of weeks ago at Emerson College in Boston. The topic came up when he was asked a question about the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform.

Jenckes said the campus-based service runs on the company’s X1 platform and is being delivered to laptop Web browsers connected to the campus network.

“There’s no set-top box; there’s no truck roll. It’s the X1 platform that’s delivering this experience,” he said, noting that students will eventually have the ability to subscribe to premium services such as HBO with a credit card.

Comcast has nailed up details of its emerging “Xfinity On Campus” IP video service at www.xfinityoncampus.com. According to the site, the service, which uses adaptive bit rate streaming,  supports live TV and video-on-demand on laptops and desktop computers “anywhere on campus,” with plans to extend the reach to tablets and smartphones “soon.” Comcast allows students to register up to three devices, but limits streaming to one device at a time.

The service is authenticated and access is limited to the managed on-campus IP network. Students are required to login with their credentials and click on a “Start Watching” button to launch the Xfinity on Campus player. Comcast, the site notes, is also developing an “Xfinity On Campus App” that will simplify the login process. Premium services, including Streampix, will eventually become part of the service.

The site does not provide a detailed channel lineup, but it apparently closely mirrors Comcast’s regular residential TV lineup. “XFINITY on Campus IP-Video channel numbers match the Comcast channel lineup in your location,” the site reads.

“What we launched at Emerson is an example of how we can take this X1 platform and serve individuals instead of serving homes,” Jenckes said, noting that it’s an example of how Comcast is transforming “from a construction company to a software company.”

Of recent note, that transformation can be seen in Xfinity TV Go, a new authenticated app for Android and iOS devices that currently offers up to 35 live TV channels outside the home. Comcast also offers a smaller batch of linear channels on its TV Everywhere Web portal. Some of that work ties back to VIPER, a largely “home grown”  cloud-based, IP video infrastructure that Comcast has built to deliver a mix of on-demand video, live TV streams and other digital media to connected devices, including PCs, smartphones, gaming consoles, IP client boxes, and smart TVs.

The Xfinity On Campus product has been years in the making. The MSO started to test an IPTV system on the MIT campus in the fall of 2011.

Offering an IP video product tailored for college students could open up a new market to the MSO, and set the stage for more residential video services that use IP-connected devices. Comcast is not alone in developing products tailored to on-the-go college students that are more apt to consume video on tablets, PCs and smartphones than they are on televisions. Philo, a Boston-based startup that counts HBO and Mark Cuban among its backers, has also developed an IP video platform coupled with a cloud DVR service that runs on browsers, Roku boxes, and the Apple TV (using AirPlay Mirroring). The company, formerly known as Tivli, has already signed on several schools, including Yale University, Fort Hays State University, University of Washington, Harvard University, Wesleyan University, Pepperdine University, and William Patterson University of New Jersey. 

X1 Licensing

Jenckes was also asked about Comcast’s plans to license X1 to other cable operators. Comcast hasn’t announced any X1 licensing deals, but Jenckes said “there are lots of initiatives we are pursuing to try to raise all boats. And to the degree that we can make the investments we’ve made to help other operators…we are thrilled to do that. We’re in active dialogue around it and we’re in active dialogue around a hundred different things.”

Jenckes said X1 initial foray into IP-connected apps like Pandora is just the start, noting that Comcast will “soon” integrate its home security and automation product to the platform.

“You’ll see us evolve this platform so it’s an app store just like you see on all of your other devices,” he said, noting that today’s offering on the X1 is “just a placeholder for what the app store can be.”

Comcast devices, he said, power 50 million televisions in its own footprint. “The scale at which we can touch the television nobody else has.”

 

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