Comcast Rolls the Dice With Xfinity Instant TV

Comcast has led the way in cable television ever since it acquired AT&T Broadband a decade ago. However, in recent years, new technologies — like IPTV and wireless TV from new competitors like AT&T and DirecTV Now — have been eating away at Comcast’s growth.

That’s why Comcast not only has introduced Xfinity Mobile, which is its new wireless service, but also is getting ready to launch its own IPTV service, Xfinity Instant TV.

I congratulate Comcast on this forward thinking, but there are no guarantees that IPTV will work for Comcast. That said, it is possible to make an educated guess.

Pay TV Is Changing

Cable TV has been a growth industry for decades, but in many ways that trend is deceiving. Cable television companies like Comcast, Charter, Cox, Time Warner Cable and others really had their markets all to themselves. There was no cable-TV competition in their regions. So, they kept growing, kept ignoring their responsibility to provide good customer care and customer service, and simply got fat and happy at the expense of the user.

That meant customers had no emotional connection with their cable television provider. While that didn’t hurt them when there was no competition, things are changing. That’s a secret Apple learned as it grew to become the most valuable company in the U.S. The cable-TV industry should have learned that lesson but didn’t. It waited until it was bleeding market share to notice and start to react.

In the last decade, IPTV entered the picture, and that started to eat away at traditional cable TV’s market share. New services like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and CenturyLink Prism appeared, and customers who liked having choices started to move.

Changes continued as new technologies and new competitors continued to enter the space, with large and small providers of all sorts of television choices. Netflix, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Hulu, and many others have been rewriting the rules of cable TV.

IPTV, Wireless TV Crucial for Comcast

The landscape continues to change with AT&T acquiring DirecTV and creating DirecTV NOW, which gives customers choices of smaller and less expensive bundles of channels, as well as something new in the major television space: wireless TV, or mobile TV. This has really turned up the heat on traditional cable television.

Traditional cable television is not growing. Its growth wave has crested and now is falling. Consumers are switching to new competitors and new technologies. This is the new challenge for the industry. And this is why we are seeing Comcast starting to make such dramatic changes to its lineup with mobile TV and IPTV.

Can Comcast Succeed?

Comcast understands the need, but does the company have the right thinking to be successful at IPTV, wireless and mobile TV? It all depends. It depends on the service, how well it’s priced, how useful it is, how hot it is in a marketing sense, and more. To tell you the truth — while I’d like to see Comcast succeed at this, its track record isn’t the greatest in these new areas. To make matters worse, its customers really don’t like the company.

It would be great if Comcast were successful with IPTV, wireless and mobile TV. It would be great if the company could turn the page on the past and jump-start the growth engines for this next generation of pay TV. It would be great if it could improve its customer satisfaction. All of that would be great. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.

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