Comcast (s CMCSA) could soon make its video services over Internet Protocol (IP), essentially using the same technology that powers online video offerings from Netflix (s NFLX) and Hulu. In a blog post Wednesday, Sam Schwartz, President of Comcast Converged Products, gave some details of its Xcalibur initiative, which could revolutionize the way that Comcast customers browse, search and discover content.
Cable companies are increasingly moving to make their live video feeds available via IP for a number of mobile and connected devices. Earlier this year, Time Warner Cable (s TWC) and Cablevision (s CVC) released iPad apps that deliver live streams of cable programming to subscribers connected to their home networks. Time Warner Cable and Comcast also announced that they would develop Internet-enabled apps for connected TVs from Samsung at CES this year. Time Warner Cable is also partnering with Sony (s SNE) to make apps on its TVs as well.
But so far, Comcast’s delivery of over-the-top content has been limited to on-demand videos on its XfinityTV.com website and its mobile apps. While it promised in January that it would soon make live video available over its own iPad app, it has yet to add the feature that other distributors have already rolled out. Comcast could take its IP initiative a step further than the others, as it is reportedly working toward a test of live feeds delivered via IP on the MIT campus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike Netflix and Hulu, though, IP-delivered streams from Comcast wouldn’t go over the broader Internet but would be delivered “in network” over its own infrastructure. By doing so, Comcast will be able to reach a growing number of connected devices like TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles and the like. It could also eventually lead to Comcast limiting the number of set-top boxes it has to roll out and support.
More importantly, however, delivering its programming over IP could enable Comcast to create a better user experience for browsing and searching for content. New IP set-top boxes that Comcast is testing in Augusta, Ga. will include a universal search engine that will help users find content whether it’s on live TV, on Comcast’s video-on-demand service or recorded on their DVRs. Those set-top boxes will also have interactive apps available, including Internet applications like Facebook, Pandora and links to local traffic and weather. In other words, extending services over IP will not only open up a whole new range of connected devices that Comcast could potentially reach, but the initiative could improve the user experience of its existing electronic programming guide and navigation system.