Pay-TV providers and cable TV networks have for years engaged in “sampling” — offering free access to premium content, in the hopes consumers will acquire enough of a taste for the shows that they’ll end up paying to get the programming on a regular basis.
Now Netflix is getting in on the action with Comcast: The cable giant said that for the first time Netflix will join more than 50 networks participating in Xfinity Watchathon Week, promoting the Comcast video-on-demand service.
From April 3-9, Xfinity X1 customers will have unlimited access to Netflix’s entire U.S. catalog, including access to such original series as “Stranger Things” (pictured above), “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “The Crown,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Master of None” and “Narcos.” X1 customers who are not currently Netflix subscribers will be offered the ability to sign up for the streaming service on April 10.
In one sense, the free-Netflix-for-a-week is a standard, time-tested promotional deal similar to others Comcast has lined up. Note that Comcast’s 2017 Watchathon Week includes other premium partners like Showtime and Starz.
But the deal underscores how dramatically different the relationship has become between Comcast and Netflix in just a few short years. The cable operator launched Netflix on its X1 set-top platform last fall, coming after they had sparred publicly over network bandwidth costs associated with streaming video. In that dispute, Netflix had accused Comcast of “extortion” in requiring network-transit fees and lobbied against Comcast’s takeover of Time Warner Cable, while Comcast had accused Netflix of trying to offload costs to cable customers. That’s all water under the bridge now, and the duo are now closely collaborating as business partners.
For the Watchathon Week promo, Comcast also called out past seasons of TV shows available on Netflix including “30 Rock,” “Breaking Bad,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Gossip Girl,” “Lost,” “Mad Men,” “The Office,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The West Wing.”
At an investor conference last month, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said that in a little over 90 days since integrating Netflix into its X1 platform, more than 30% of X1 customers had used Netflix.
In addition to Netflix, networks participating in this year’s Watchathon Week include: A&E, ABC, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Crackle, CW, Discovery, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, Food Network, Fox, Freeform, FX, FXX, FYI, GSN, HGTV, History, ID, IFC, Lifetime, Logo, MLB Network, MTV, National Geographic, NBC, OWN, Oxygen, PBS, Science, Showtime, Spike, Sprout, Starz, Starz Encore, Syfy, TBS, TLC, TNT, truTV, TV Land, USA, VH1, Viceland, We TV and WGN America.
The Xfinity Watchathon Week is now in its fifth year. Last year, Xfinity TV customers watched more than 70 million hours across on-demand platforms during the VOD promotion, up 10% over the prior year. Viewing for the 2016 event on mobile devices was up 40%, according to Comcast.