Comcast integrates 20 FAST channels into X1 channel guide

Comcast has officially launched and integrated 20 free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels into the TV guide on it’s cable operator’s X1 pay TV platform.

While Comcast’s X1 platform already offers major FAST apps, such as Pluto TV, Tubi, Freevee and Xumo Play, this move is distinct as it marks the first FAST integration into the X1 channel guide. This means users will not need to launch a separate app to browse and access the free content.

Plans to launch the channels were discussed in June at the StreamTV Show. The move follows earlier integrations (helped by the Xumo Enterprise unit) that brought the channels to Xfinity Stream in April and later Comcast’s Now TV offering launched in May.

The new free content coming to X1 include 19 Xumo-branded channels and NBC News Now. Xumo-branded channels span a variety of genres. This includes, Xumo Action, to Xumo Black Cinema, Xumo Comedy, Xumo Movies, to Xumo Westerns and Reality TV.

With the additions Comcast is integrating a free channel content lineup within the same browsing experience as the traditional pay TV networks users get through their cable subscription. Along with seeing the channels side-by-side users can also quickly zero in on FAST content within the guide by saying “free streaming channels” into their voice remote and be taken directly to them.

“The addition of FAST channels on our Xfinity entertainment platforms adds a new dynamic to our video offering,” said Vito Forlenza, Vice President, Entertainment Apps.

Forlenza went on to suggest that Comcast’s approach with pulling in FAST channels isn’t simply about adding any and all content.

“Our strategy is centered around value not tonnage, and we are focused on bringing FAST channels into the experience that are additive to the majority of our customers’ lineups,” Forlenza continued.

In addition to the programming guide, Comcast is also integrating access and visibility of the channels throughout the X1 experience. It does this with other channels on the platform. Customers can search for the channels by name via voice remote, locate them among recently watched channels and within their “Last 9.” Comcast also integrated the FAST into X1’s new “Best of Live” hub and relevant “On Now” rows.

Speaking at a keynote session at the StreamTV show this summer, Xumo Chief Revenue Officer Colin Petrie-Norris said a positive for Xumo is that it’s taken a very integrated approach from day one.

“It’s actually often a very deep integration on the engineering side, to have the channels presented in a way that’s very familiar to the consumer,” Petrie-Norris commented. He was speaking to the FAST channel integrations across Xfinity Stream, Now TV and X1.

In a separate interview with StreamTV Insider in June, Amazon Fire TV’s Charlotte Maines discussed the secret sauce of the free live TV experience on Fire TV. This includes the ability to surface relevant free content throughout the UI to help users find it wherever they might be.

As for Comcast, the company said “this is just the beginning” of plans to boost customers’ TV subscriptions through FAST offerings. Further plans will be to pull additional channels into the programming guide at a later date. Contacted by StreamTV Insider, a Comcast spokesperson declined to comment further on a timeline or whether that means more Xumo-branded or third-party FAST content.

For FAST channel,  Comcast is integrating content within its own X1 platform here. However, it is also helping others to launch built-in FAST channels as well via its Xumo Enterprise unit, including Google TV and smart TV OEM TCL.

Comcast is looking to enhance  its own pay TV experience with free content as traditional video industry subscribers and revenue contract. New research from GlobalData found that revenue from traditional pay TV services, (including cable, satellite and terrestrial) will decline from $218 billion in 2022 to $194 billion by 2027. GlobalData also showed that as SVOD subscriber volume expanded at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% between 2018 and 2022, while pay TV comparatively only grew at a 4% CAGR, primarily due to cord-cutting trends.

And Comcast itself has continued to lose traditional video subscribers, losing 614,000 in Q1.  

Still Ampere Analysis data found that while the percentage of internet users who claim to watch little to no linear TV on a typical day increased 22% between Q1 2021 and Q1 2023 to reach 45%. It is shown that providers’ own investments in streaming offerings will help continue engagement with those audiences. The firm found that engagement with broadcast-led video services has increased 26% since Q1 2023.

“At first glance, the decline in linear TV viewing looks to be a worrying trend for broadcasters as their traditional audience begins to drift away,” said Minal Modha, research director at Ampere Analysis. “However, as the increased engagement with broadcast-led video services shows, if the linear channels can continue to adapt and provide a strong OTT offering for audiences switching from scheduled TV channels, they have an opportunity to retain them, albeit on a different medium.”

While Comcast business NBCUniversal is also investing in SVOD Peacock, the X1 platform is meant to add value to its traditional pay TV subscriptions.  Comcast executives have previously told StreamTV Insider how the company’s own platforms can serve as a testing ground for new innovations as the operator looks to license its global technology platforms to others.

News Source: Stream TV Insider

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