Comcast assembled its high brass in San Francisco Wednesday to show its new Xfinity X1 TV platform to a gaggle of tech reporters. Xfinity X1 is a completely cloud-based system with the potential to eradicate the cable field, which Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts admitted turns into “out of date as quickly as we put it in your home.”
So if all you want is broadband Web entry to get TV service from Comcast, what’s to cease the corporate from providing its service by means of any broadband ISP? Nothing however greed.
Tuesday’s Xfinity X1 demo was dazzling. Comcast execs boasted that you simply’d ultimately be capable to report each single program it provided over a 30-day interval, since you’d have a nearly limitless DVR within the cloud. There’s additionally a brand new distant with an built-in microphone, so you’ll be able to management the system and carry out searches with voice instructions.
And the way about this: You possibly can stream video out of your cellphone to some other Xfinity X1 buyer’s TV, so grandma can see the youngsters’ soccer recreation. You may as well combine your WeMo gadgets and create IFTTT recepies. And there is a lot, way more.
However Roberts’ post-demo dissembling over points corresponding to internet neutrality, his firm’s curiosity in buying Time Warner, and the hurdles the cable-TV trade has needed to overcome over the previous 60 years was much more entertaining.
When requested about Comcast’s effort to accumulate Time Warner, for example, Roberts stated “On this trade, again within the Sixties, late 50s, they gave out one franchise at a time to all 30,000 [municipalities in the United States]. No enterprise earlier than or since labored that approach. It doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense.”
Effectively, monopolies don’t make a whole lot of sense, both, however these early cable firms wouldn’t serve a municipality with no assure that rooftop antennas and rabbit ears could be their solely competitors.
And if these municipalities had recognized again within the 60s that the brand new cables strung from their utility poles would additionally permit the cable firms to hawk phone, Web, and smart-home service to their residents, you’ll be able to guess these franchise charges would have been a lot increased. In any case, shoppers didn’t have a alternative of TV service suppliers till, as Roberts identified, “You might put up one satellite tv for pc and hit all 30,000 [municipalities]. Put up one other satellite tv for pc and a second firm hit all 30,000.”
Persevering with his story of how he needed to stroll 10 miles barefoot within the snow to get to high school every day, Roberts identified how regional cellphone firms can service multi-state areas of the nation, whereas cable firms are restricted to working on a city-by-city foundation. (How’d we get regional cellphone firms? By breaking apart the monopoly AT&T held because the invention of the phone.)
“Wi-fi firms are all around the nation,” Roberts stated. “Then the cloud comes alongside, and Amazon, Google, Apple, Verizon—you title it. All ‘click on’ and so they get it [access to a nationwide market]. And we’re nonetheless chugging together with our 7 or 10 thousand franchises.”
Poor, Comcast. All these regulatory shackles restricted its 2013 income to a measly $64.6 billion.
Roberts additionally insisted that buying Time Warner wouldn’t change the aggressive panorama one iota. “The product you simply noticed demonstrated so splendidly by our crew is admittedly onerous and actual costly and completely different than plain-old cable. Nevertheless it’s not accessible in New York and LA—any of the product you simply noticed [because those are Time Warner cable territories].”
In actuality, Comcast doesn’t want franchises wherever to supply their new TV platform. If Infinity X1 actually is a cloud service, Comcast may ship it over any ISP’s pipes—identical to Google, Amazon, Netflix, and numerous different firms ship their companies over Comcast’s pipes.
However Comcast received’t try this as a result of it will imply giving up the chance to additionally promote Web, cellphone, smart-home companies, and who is aware of what else down the street to those self same clients. Comcast doesn’t actually care about cable-TV franchises; it cares about controlling the Web’s infrastructure.
“Competitors has spurred innovation greater than regulation has,” Roberts stated.
True. However with out regulation, there could be no competitors.
Be aware: This story was up to date to appropriately report Comcast’s 2013 income. The unique story mirrored solely fourth-quarter income.