Comcast Gets into Video Streaming Apps, Flaunts FCC Restrictions?

Comcast Gets into Video Streaming Apps, Flaunts FCC Restrictions?

Yes, it was inevitable, another giant of broadcasting has created another app and tossed it into the ring to vie for online video viewer attention further diluting the market, further splitting our attention and further cluttering your iOS device home screens.

I smell a conspiracy which just struck me while writing those sentences. Read on to find out what it is, and don't forget your tinfoil hat. Tinfoil hats are required past this point for your own safety, no seriously. Of course, to prevent your mind from being exposed to my own brand of insanity, you would need tinfoil sunglasses...

My Cable Conspiracy

No I don't think it's a government conspiracy, you can probably take that silly tinfoil hat off, unless of course you believe it really keeps the aliens and government from reading your thoughts, then you had best leave it on. No, this conspiracy is among broadcasters. They are attempting to flood the market with numerous apps that only offer select content meaning that you will need numerous apps, numerous account and numerous monthly payments in order to get all the content you want. They fear a single, all-encompassing source of content online for some reason, yet are promoting an archaic form of that through broadcast and cable. Doesn't it feel like that they are all saying they hate Netflix but love the archaic pre-packaged cable television model?

Comcast Xfinity TV app

Alright, that might be out on a ledge and maybe I do need a tinfoil hat. The focus of today's thrust is that Comcast Corporation announced its Xfinity TV service now enables customers to watch many of their top favorite TV programs and movies On Demand directly on the iPad.

This new feature is available as part of an updated version of the Xfinity TV app, which is offered for free to Xfinity TV digital customers, and has been downloaded more than one million times since its launch in mid-November.

Aha! It's only available to Comcast customers. That sounds like it goes against those restrictions placed on Comcast by the FCC in regards to the NBC Universal purchase/merger.  Oh wait, no, the FCC restrictions prohibit Comcast from withholding its programming from rival cable TV and satellite providers as well as online distributors. So that means, theoretically, that anyone should be able to make an app and license any Comcast content which now will include NBC, USA, SyFy, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC.

Now for those that haven't been following along, FCC requirements state that Comcast must sell its content to online distributors at the same price offered to cable and satellite companies. It forces Comcast to "offer stand-alone broadband Internet access services at reasonable prices and of sufficient bandwidth" mainly so that you don't need to be a Comcast cable customer to watch online video and....wait a second.

That would technically mean that this new Xfinity TV app, breaches the agreement with the FCC as it requires you to be a Comcast customer. Cue the incidental music. (dum dum duuuuuummm).

With it, hundreds of TV programs and movies are available for subscribers to stream directly to the iPad.

"The Xfinity TV app with video streaming is part of our ongoing effort to deliver great entertainment experiences for our customers on all screens and devices”

Content from premium cable networks including HBO, SHOWTIME, Starz, Encore, Cinemax and MoviePlex can be accessed free by Xfinity TV subscribers of those networks with the swipe of a fingertip, in addition to hit programming from TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and BBC America.

But, shouldn't they be allowing non-customers to also gain access to all of that content?

Epic FCC Fail

Top entertainment available on the iPad today includes nearly 3,000 hours of hit TV shows or series like: HBO's True Blood (every episode from all three seasons), Boardwalk Empire and Big Love; Showtime's Dexter, Weeds and Californication (every episode from first three seasons plus new episodes from season four); and Starz's Spartacus: Blood and Sand (season one) and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (prequel). Top movies in a variety of categories include popular films Alice in Wonderland, 2012, and The Hangover; kids' movies including G-Force and Monsters vs. Aliens; Oscar winners or nominees including An Education and The Blind Side; plus a variety of romantic comedies, dramas, thrillers and horror films.

Damn, many of those shows aren't available on all that many online services which means that there's some unfair competition going on here. You can't get much of the content elsewhere online and you can't get it from this app if you're not a Comcast customer. That is exactly what the FCC was trying to prevent and obviously failed, with epic proportions.

Customer specific features

This new Xfinity TV app does have some very specific features that are geared toward Comcast customers which includes enabling customers to easily search and browse through their TV and On Demand listings, program their DVRs and change TV channels.

The Xfinity TV app is another example of the Company's larger commitment to deliver more choice and control to its customers through its Xfinity services, which include 150,000 online entertainment choices through Xfinity TV (at www.XfinityTV.com) as well as other applications that enable customers to program a DVR from the Internet or a mobile device, and cross-platform features like Caller ID to the TV and PC.

No Non-Customer Version

It seems to me that by limiting the access to the content and allowing the app to only be used by Comcast customers they are doing exactly what FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps was afraid of and is why he voted against the merger.

On top of that The Justice Department, who upheld the FCC restrictions, said they [restrictions] "will preserve new content distribution models that offer more products and greater innovation, and the potential to provide consumers access to their favorite programming on a variety of devices in a wide selection of packages."

Ahh well, so much for that. Now it remains to be seen what the FCC and Justice Department might do about this. Ideally, they would require Comcast to create a non-customer version of the Xfinity TV app. For non-Comcast customers, Xfinity is not actually a TV, it's just what they call their packages for connectivity.

The Real Cable Conspiracy

The real Cable Conspiracy is the fact that in most cities, you are forced to buy cable from a single provider. For example, Milwaukee is Time Warner territory, there is no Comcast there. Doesn't that sound like a monopoly? Probably through some deal between the major cable providers to not step into each others' territories. So I guess, if the FCC is going to continue to allow that sort of monopolistic system, they might as well just let Comcast step over those restrictions anyway.

I mean, look at this map I found at MediaBiz... do you see them stepping on each other?

Comcast Gets into Video Streaming Apps, Flaunts FCC Restrictions?

I think that the cable companies have, for so long, been in a local monopoly position that they can't comprehend the changing face of online video. That can't figure out that consumers like and want choice. I also can't see how this has gone on for so long.

I suppose the real fear of the cable companies now, especially Comcast, is that you will use their bandwidth, even though you pay for a set amount per month, to access the content of other providers and not pay them [the cable provider] a premium. They fear that you will cancel your cable service and consume more bandwidth watching streaming video. But nearly every broadband package has a bandwidth limit and when you pay per month, you should be able to use every single bit of that bandwidth limit, right? After all, that's why you pay the amount you pay, regardless of what you do with it and what time you do it. I just heard that Netflix has said that at peak usage, they can consume up to 20% of all Internet traffic in the US...wow, well done Netflix!

Maybe I do need a tinfoil hat...


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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6FIH7XWWGG54MS5SMVEJQUVHF4 Michael S

    Comcast's app is the reason why I'm glad to work and subscribe to DISH Network. For quite some time now I've been able to stream my live TV and DVR recordings to my Vibrant, Galaxy Tab, or laptop whenever and wherever I want. And, there are not minimum package requirements to do this (unlike Comcast). If this type of convenience is what you're looking for then I highly suggest checking it out.