Comcast & Google: Global War?


Man. Woman. Birth. Death. Infinity.
Ben Casey

Comcast’s proposed deal to buy a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal from General Electric is having congressional hearings today. The proposal faces strong opposition from many consumer groups and competitors, although federal regulators are likely to approve it with conditions. The Republicans and Democrats are looking at the same deal, but seeing it quite differently.

“Many are concerned that this transaction could result in the best of NBC’s programming being transitioned to a pay-TV service,” said Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at the hearing today. Committee members also pressed Comcast on how they would treat video providers like Boxee, and to explain why Hulu, which is owned in part by NBCU, decided last year to stop Boxee from giving users its free, ad-based video content.

Boxee responded:


I’d like to set the record straight regarding Boxee’s access to Hulu. Boxee uses a web browser to access Hulu’s content – just like Firefox or Internet Explorer. Boxee users click on a link to Hulu’s website and the video within that page plays. We don’t “take” the video. We don’t copy it. We don’t put ads on top of it. The video and the ads play like they do on other browsers or on Hulu Desktop. And it certainly is legal to do so.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and NBC President Jeff Zucker promised to continue free broadcasts and enhance local news (pdf).

Comcast is doing well. Comcast’s video, high-speed Internet and voice customers totaled 47.1 million, reflecting 1.5 million net additions during 2009. Comcast’s Q4 2009 revenue increased 2.9% to $9.1 billion and operating cash flow increased 1.1% to $3.4 billion.

Meanwhile, Comcast said Wednesday that it will call its all digital cable service XFinity.

Digital cable channels have been typically allocated above 552 MHz. Between 552 and 750 MHz, there was space for 33 6-MHz channels (230–400 SDTV channels).

The math of analog reclamation is compelling, explains Cable Digital News. When a cable system converts 40 analog channels to digital and compresses them, it provides enough capacity for about 80 to 100 HD channels, HD VoD, and wideband at download speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s.

XFINITY will be the Comcast brand for this digital conversion. It enables Comcast to offer lots more pay channels and faster broadband, including 100+ HD channels, 50 to 70 foreign-language channels, nearly 20,000+ VOD choices, 50 Mbps cable modem speeds growing to 100+ Mbps, and thousands of TV shows

The new brand will roll out in 11 markets on Feb. 12. Portland was the first city where Comcast made its 100% digital transition, and is a frequent proving ground for new Comcast services, says Mike Rogoway of the Oregonian.

A new streaming video service is called Fancast XFINITY TV. It’s like Hulu. Fancast is a website where people may watch full-length network television shows, feature films, trailers and clips, as well as in-depth news and editorial content related to entertainment.

Fancast is a division of Comcast Interactive Media, the Internet division of Comcast. A wireless capability will likely be available using their WiMAX network called Comcast High-Speed 2go. NBC, an investor in Hulu, removed their content from Boxee.

About 105 million subscribers worldwide are currently connected to cable broadband services, representing 25% of all broadband users, with 65% hooked up via DSL and 11% fiber-to-the-home, according to market research firm ABI Research.

A recent survey conducted by Strategy Analytics found that about 47 percent of cable customers said they’d switch providers for a 10 percent discount on their service. And over two-thirds said they would jump ship for a 20 percent discount. “People are questioning why they should pay $60 or more a month for something they aren’t that thrilled with when they can replicate that experience with Hulu or an Xbox,” said Ben Piper, an analyst with Strategy Analytics.

Meanwhile, the O3B satellite network, backed by Google, is set for launch in late 2010. An ISP would install a pair of high-tech antennas capable of tracking multiple satellites and establish a 155-megabit per-second connection to the global Web. ISPs could use 3G cellular and WiMax towers for local connections. Each satellite in the network will have 10 spot beams, each delivering in excess of 1Gbit/s.

Interoperability between handsets and tablets will be enabled with ARM chips. Android and Chrome OS will be Google’s weapon of choice. Boxee will play multimedia files from a local CD/DVD or hard disk, or streamed over the internet from You Tube.

Google’s got the handset, the tablet and an advertising network for a global triple play. Comcast is a United States entertainment company. Won’t translate.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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