Is Netflix, erstwhile pay-TV killer and bandwidth hog, going to be the savior of the TV bundle?
That could be the position Netflix finds itself, with the streaming service soon to be part of the TV bundles offered by Comcast, the U.S.’s biggest cable operator.
Once bitter foes, Comcast and Netflix announced Friday an expansion of their distribution pact under which the operator plans to include Netflix subscriptions in new and existing Xfinity TV packages.
Comcast at this point doesn’t have details about pricing and packaging of the TV bundles that will include Netflix. Starting later this month, Comcast said it will “launch a variety of initial offers” that include a Netflix subscription that will vary by market. Comcast also has the option to bundle Netflix with standalone Xfinity Internet broadband services.
Under the pact, Netflix-related billing will be handled directly by Comcast. If Xfinity TV customers already have a Netflix subscription, they will be able to transfer their accounts to Comcast’s billing system when they launch the Netflix app on X1.
The companies first hooked up two years ago. In late 2016, Comcast launched Netflix on the X1 set-top platform, letting customers of both companies access Netflix content from cable-connected TVs.
The expanded Comcast-Netflix deal comes on the heels of a similar pact between the VOD streamer and satellite broadcaster Sky, which will include Netflix in pay-TV packages across the U.K. and Europe. In addition, T-Mobile bundles Netflix service with its family-plan unlimited wireless tiers.
Comcast’s tighter embrace of Netflix — to plug the VOD service into its pay-TV packages, rather than requiring a separate signup and billing process — stands to boost Netflix’s penetration across the operator’s 21 million-plus TV households. Comcast, besides potentially making its pay-TV services more attractive by including Netflix, also is looking to reinforce its broadband services with the move.
“Netflix is a great partner, and we are excited to offer its services to our customers in new ways that provide them with more choice, value and flexibility,” Sam Schwartz, Comcast Cable’s chief business development officer, said in a statement.
It’s a remarkable shift in tone just a few years after Comcast and Netflix waged a running battle over bandwidth-usage payments. In early 2014, Netflix said it “reluctantly” agreed to pay Comcast for dedicated internet bandwidth and later accused the cable giant of “extortion” in demanding such fees. For its part, Comcast argued that Netflix was trying to avoid paying its fair share of bandwidth costs.
That’s all ancient history. Today, Comcast says X1 is the most-used platform for Netflix viewing across its customer base, with nearly 50% of Xfinity X1 subscribers “actively” using Netflix. In addition, Netflix has become one of the most-viewed services overall on the platform and among the top services searched via X1 voice-enabled remote controls, according to Comcast.
“Our partnership with Comcast on Xfinity X1 has brought easy access to Netflix for our mutual customers,” commented Bill Holmes, Netflix’s global head of business development for Netflix.
Comcast’s integration of Netflix into X1 lets customers search, browse and access the entire Netflix service, including original TV series, films, documentaries, stand-up comedy specials, children’s titles and a catalog of Ultra HD 4K and HDR programming. Comcast also includes Netflix content in recommendations in the X1 guide.
According to Comcast, the X1 platform is deployed in 60% of video customer homes. The cable giant reported 21.3 million residential TV customers nationwide as of the end of 2017.