On Demand: Comcast’s Meyer Says Stacking, X1 Changing Game

After years of ‘following’ Netflix, top operator now has metrics, results on its side
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Stephen Meyer, VP of video strategy and analysis for Comcast, said in-season stacking rights and the tech innovations of the X1 system are pushing the top cable operator to new heights.

Netflix “seemed to come in with a little more elegant product,” Meyer conceded during a keynote conversation at the eighth annual On Demand conference, presented by B&C and Multichannel News. As Netflix grew and “created this consumer appetite” for on-demand streaming, “in some ways we were following to catch up. But in other ways we’ve been prepared.”

The main fruit of that preparation: the X1 system, which is now in 40% of Comcast homes and gaining steadily. The company handles some 40,000 installations a day, Meyer told moderator Mark Robichaux, editorial director of B&C and Multichannel News.

“X1 was the culmination of getting the tech, content and user experience right. Meyer said 85% of X1 users are using video on demand monthly, racking up an average of 24 hours per month. Cox Cable in the U.S. and Shaw in Canada are among the operators that have licensed X1 technology for their own offerings.

The volume of content made available is enticing customers, Meyer said. For example, X1 features the entire 600-episode library of TheSimpsons.

Another major draw: in-season stacking rights, which have been gaining currency as media companies air more shows that their studio arms have produced and success stories like Fox’s Empire attest to the upside.

“When you look at the shift toward on-demand viewing, TV series are becoming more like novels,” Meyer said. “When you’re thinking of reading a book, no one is going to start on Chapter 3 or 4.… Customers are increasingly turning toward things that are complete.”

In just the last two years alone, stacking has exploded. The Big Four broadcast networks, Meyer said, will offer in-season stacking on roughly 58% of their 2016-17 programming, up from 23% in 2014-15. Major cable networks will hit 78%, also up sharply from 53% in 2014-15.

“It used to be that when you said you watched a lot of TV, it wasn’t a good thing. Now, you actually sound smart if you say you watch a lot of TV shows.”

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