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YouTube Coming to Comcast TV Set-Tops

Cable operator inks distribution deal with Google-owned video platform

Comcast plans to launch a YouTube video app on the Xfinity X1 set-top platform nationwide later in 2017 — and move that will make internet video adjacent to TV programming on the U.S.’s biggest cable operator.

Terms of the deal aren’t being released. While no money is changing hands between Google and Comcast, the pact may be part of a broader traffic-distribution arrangement between the two.

X1 users will be able to access content on the YouTube Red subscription service, priced at $9.99 per month. Initially, Comcast customers will not be able to subscribe to YouTube Red directly from the set-tops, but that might change in the future. Meanwhile, according to a Comcast rep, Google’s forthcoming YouTube Unplugged “skinny bundle” of TV channels will not be available via the X1 platform.

With the YouTube app, X1 customers will be able to browse and access YouTube’s entire catalog of billions of videos alongside the programming included with their Xfinity TV subscription. Comcast also will let subscribers use voice commands — to speak into their X1 remote control to find YouTube videos by saying, for example, “Show me Ellen Degeneres on YouTube” or “Find yoga videos on YouTube.”

“The YouTube integration on X1 will provide users the ability to seamlessly navigate and access YouTube content alongside their cable service,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, said in a statement.

Comcast didn’t announce when it expects to launch the YouTube app. The deal is part of Comcast’s strategy to become the one-stop-shop for video, so subscribers don’t ever need to switch to an alternative streaming device (like Apple TV or Roku).

Last fall, the cable operator launched Netflix access on the X1 platform, and Comcast offers various other internet apps as well including Facebook, Instagram and Pandora. Comcast had 22.5 million video subscribers as of the end of 2016, and says that close to 50% of those have X1.

For YouTube, which already counts more than 1 billion monthly users, Comcast will add only an incremental number of potential subscribers. But what’s key for YouTube is that X1 will not only provide access on big-screen HDTVs but will also position YouTube content in the same menus where viewers find shows from cable and broadcast TV nets.

X1 customers will be able to access YouTube in the X1 “Apps” and “Networks” menus. In addition, Comcast will feature YouTube content throughout Xfinity On Demand. X1 customers can sign in to their YouTube accounts to access personalized settings and subscriptions.

It’s not the first pay-TV deal for YouTube, but Comcast is its biggest partner to date in this area. YouTube is available on Vodafone, the U.K.’s Virgin Media, Telecom Italia, and on Google Fiber in the U.S. Meanwhile, YouTube is available on a range of internet-TV devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation, TiVo and Chromecast.

Here’s a mock-up of how Comcast’s X1 will display curated YouTube content next to TV shows:

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