Comcast Today: Trouble With HBO GO
Now that the Netflix problem has been solved, no more streaming video controversies for Comcast, right?
Sony finally filled a major hole in its video app lineup yesterday with the introduction of HBO Go for PlayStation 3. Once installed, the app allows most cable customers to stream their favorite HBO shows and a wide selection of movies. We say most because there’s one major provider that isn’t yet on board with HBO Go for PlayStation, and that’s Comcast. Comcast subscribers are currently unable to stream any content using the app.
When we reached out to ask why Xfinity subscribers can’t yet access HBO Go on its console, Sony predictably steered our inquiry to Comcast. “Please contact Comcast PR regarding its authentication policies and supported devices. We hope they will support PS3 soon,” a spokesperson said. As for what Comcast had to say, a company representative told The Verge, “With every new website, device or player we authenticate, we need to work through technical integration and customer service which takes time and resources. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize as we partner with various players.”
Multichannel News adds: “ Similarly, Comcast is also blocking subs from running HBO GO on Roku devices, while DirecTV, one of the last significant holdouts, started supporting HBO GO on Roku in late January. Roku introduced HBO GO in 2011. … Comcast does allow authentication of the HBO GO app on several other platforms, including iOS, Android tablets and smartphones, the Apple TV and the Xbox 360. Comcast subs are also able to run HBO GO on the Google Chromecast.”
Nearly all those named devices that HBO GO does work on in Comcast—iOS and Android tablets and smartphones—are mobile devices, which means users aren’t necessarily giving up cable to watch HBO on tiny screens. (Apple TV is on the iOS platform, so it may get swept in with the mobile devices.) Only Xbox 360 would clearly let TV watchers “cut the cord” and get their HBO on big home flatscreens.
The entire purpose of a Roku, on the other hand, is to enable cord-cutting by delivering streaming Internet video content direct to a user’s TV. That’s it. Which places it cleanly in competition with Comcast’s cable offerings. The Playstation, though game-oriented, could function similarly. Roku has reportedly sold at least 5 million units; PlayStation 3 has sold at least 80 million units. No telling how many of those users would like to watch HBO GO, but it’s probably not an insignificant number by Comcast standards.
Other Comcastic headlines:
• U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine stepped up her efforts to block the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner, the nation’s two largest cable TV and Internet providers, by sending a two-page letter of protest Wednesday to the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the Federal Communications Commission. “The anti-competitive effect of such a large player in the market for both cable television and the future of a free and open Internet seems obvious, and the public interest in affordable cable prices and an Internet that is fully open to innovation requires disapproval of this deal,” Pingree wrote. (Portland Press Herald)
• Comcast has wrapped up its deal to buy FreeWheel, the Web video ad-serving company. The two companies signed their paperwork yesterday, and informed employees last night. The cable giant will end up paying $360 million for the seven-year-old startup, sources said. If you throw in employee retention bonuses and other comp, the number could hit $375 million. FreeWheel helps Web companies deliver video ads, and has specialized in locking up deals with big media companies like Viacom, Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. (Re/code)
• City Council will vote Thursday on legislation that could allow Comcast Corporation and Liberty Property Trust to extend the underground transit concourse from its current terminus, westward beneath 18th Street to the proposed Comcast Innovation and Technology Center at 1800 Arch Street. If approved, the pedestrian tunnel will allow the 3,000 to 4,000 employees the building is expected to house to enter the building from transit connections, including regional rail trains, trolleys, Broad Street and Market Frankford subway lines, without leaving the below-ground transit concourses centered around Suburban Station. It will also extend public access to the Suburban Station concourse. (PlanPhilly)
• USA Today reports that Comcast, the largest cable operator in the United States, will run advertisements to connect users seeking medical marijuana with doctors who can prescribe it. The advertisements began running in New Jersey and in the greater Chicago markets on Monday. The Verge reports the ad will appear in Massachusetts next week, adding it is expected to be shown on Fox, CNN ESPN, Comedy Central, AMC and Discovery, as it was in New Jersey. (Boston Business Journal)
• Comcast Corp.’s investment in the theme parks industry is going well, said company CFO Michael Angelakis at a March 4Morgan Stanley conference. … Angelakis did mention the success the theme park industry — including Universal Orlando Resort — has had on the company’s investment earnings — which is also known as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA. “We think the parks have been under-capitalized for a number of years, so when you have [an industry asset] under $400 million EBITDA that now has blown over $1 billion, we are excited about that,” he said. Universal Orlando Resort is undergoing one of those major investments now, with the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, which is set to open this summer. (Orlando Business Journal)