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Comcast Has No Plans to Launch Internet TV Outside Cable Footprint, CEO Brian Roberts Says

Exec touts NBCUniversal's Olympics coverage and new features of Comcast X1 set-top platform

Comcast currently doesn’t plan to follow its satellite-TV rivals — AT&T’s DirecTV and Dish Network — into the business of selling broadband-delivered television packages across the U.S., chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said.

“The world always changes,” Roberts told reporters on the floor of the INTX trade show Monday in Boston. But for now, he said, Comcast does not have an over-the-top video service in the works that would be aimed at consumers outside regions where it offers cable TV today.

In the first quarter of 2016 Comcast had the best video-subscriber additions in nine years, Roberts noted. The No. 1 U.S. cable operator added 53,000 video customers in the period, to stand at 22.4 million as of the end of March. “Something is working,” he said. “I’m not sure you need to change it.”

Comcast’s decision for now to not cut the cord on video stands in contrast to Dish, which last year launched the Sling TV OTT “skinny bundle,” and DirecTV, which is eyeing a launch of three different Internet-video packages later in 2016. On Monday, AT&T announced the acquisition of Quickplay Media to bolster its video-delivery infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Hulu — which is owned by Comcast’s NBCU, along with Disney and 21st Century Fox — has announced plans to deliver a package of live broadcast and cable TV channels in 2017.

Roberts, asked about the trend toward OTT and skinny bundles, asserted that the evolution in the market is part of competition Comcast has faced for years. As for whether Comcast is planning to roll out new “skinny” bundles on top of the broadband-focused packages it has launched to date like Xfinity Stream, Roberts offered few specifics: “It’s a conversation that’s evolving with each of our programming partners,” he said. “We all have a legacy business and we all want to grow that.”

Roberts used his keynote earlier during the INTX general session to promote NBCUniversal’s copious coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, and touting new ways Comcast’s X1 set-top platform will deliver that content.

All told, NBCU will deliver 6,000 hours of Olympics video on 11 NBCU networks over the course of 17 days this August, including 306 events — all streamed live and available on multiple devices, he said.

“It would take you 250 days to watch all this content,” Roberts said.

Roberts highlighted new features for X1 to watch the Olympics. The next-generation cable TV service will include a dedicated destination combining live television, online streaming and on-demand content, as well as athlete profiles, and up-to-the-minute stats.

Currently, about 35% of Comcast’s video subscribers have X1, and the company is adding about 40,000 subscribers to the X1 platform daily. By the time the Rio Olympics arrives, the operator will have nearly 50% of video subs on X1, Roberts said. He also said Comcast has distributed about 7 million voice-enabled X1 remote controls (which let customers speak commands and search for TV programming, a la Apple’s Siri).

Roberts was talking up X1 and NBCU’s Olympics plans at the same time the Peacock was holding its upfront for advertisers in New York City on Monday.

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