Comcast will soon streamline the authentication process for subscribers that want to log in and access premium, on-demand video content online, according to CEO Brian Roberts. In a conversation with former News Corp. chief Peter Chernin at the Cable Show in Los Angeles today, Roberts said that the company would be revamping its TV Everywhere offering and could make it easier to access from PCs, but could also make it available through the iPad and other consumer electronic devices.
The update to its TV Everywhere service comes just six months after Comcast rolled out the beta version — dubbed Fancast Xfinity TV — to its subscribers, enabling them to view on-demand content from premium cable channels for which they were already paying. But that version required the download and installation of a Comcast Access module, which helps ensure that subscribers are allowed to view certain types of content.
The installation of the module and the entire authentication process caused frustration for some users — myself included — and led to wide-scale customer service issues for subscribers that couldn’t get the service to work (as evidenced in our comments).
Roberts acknowledged those issues today, saying that under the system it takes too many steps to authenticate. So Comcast is introducing a new version, which will hopefully be rolled out over the next 90 days, that would make it easier to log in and reduce the number of steps involved in reaching authenticated content. A newer version could also help the distributor to launch the service on other devices. “We would like it to be faster and more ubiquitous,” Roberts said.
The current Fancast Xfinity TV service is only available through PCs, but a new version could be available on mobile phones and other consumer electronics devices. Roberts singled out the iPad as one device on which Comcast would like to have its TV Everywhere service available. “We want to have all our authenticated content working on that device,” he said.
While Roberts gave no further details on the company’s plans, we expect Comcast to make some technology changes before the next version. The need to eliminate steps to authentication suggests that it could do away with the Comcast Access module altogether, requiring a simple web login instead. For delivery on PCs, the authenticated programming on Fancast could leverage Adobe Flash, which has made available new DRM capabilities with the launch of Flash Access and the newest version of its plugin, Flash Player 10.1. For the iPad, however, Comcast will need to either build an app to deliver the TV Everywhere service, or deploy it using H.264-encoded HTML5 video, since Flash isn’t supported on the mobile device.
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