Xfinity Evolves the Streaming Experience

Author Date November 12, 2020 Read 4 min
There's a lot to love about video streaming services. The appeal is one that puts consumers in control. One thing that's not to love about streaming services is…

There’s a lot to love about video streaming services. The appeal is one that puts consumers in control.

One thing that’s not to love about streaming services is the way in which you have to browse to find what you want.

It’s a scenario just about everyone has faced on streaming services.

You know the  program you want to watch. Perhaps you use your streaming remote to select characters using an on-screen keyboard to spell out the program’s name. After taking what seems like forever typing in the name, you realize you spelled it wrong, and after  you go back to fix the spelling, wasting away another several minutes. Finally — FINALLY — you spell the name right, only to discover your streaming service doesn’t even offer that program.

Or maybe someone just recommended a great new a program to watch. The problem is, you forgot the name. You could describe the show, or some of the actors in it, but as for the name? Forget about it. How do you begin to find that one show in the seemingly endless titles available in the streaming service?

The X1 Remote

Back in 2014, Xfinity launched what it called the X1 platform. One year later, the real star of that show came along — the X1 Voice Remote.

Customers can speak commands into the remote to navigate the X1 platform that powers Xfinity’s cable TV service. But it goes beyond just simple voice commands such as “Tune to channel 891” or “Tune to ESPN.” I had a remote control way back in the ‘90s that did that and could even program my VCR.

The X1 remote uses AI and deep learning to provide an excellent customer experience to those using the remote. One example is that there are literally 24,000 ways you can use the X1 remote to navigate to ESPN.

This seems like a simple innovation, but its effect on the customer experience is substantial. There are so many TV channels nowadays that many customers don’t know the channel number of their favorite station. Quick, can you think of the channel number of HGTV for your cable provider?

If not, you’d be forced to navigate pages and pages of the on-screen TV guide until you find it. With the X1 voice remote, you can simply speak the channel you want and be automatically taken to it.

But the X1 platform goes beyond simple voice navigation to channels. If you want to watch a specific program on HGTV — maybe “Flip or Flop” — you don’t have to wait until it’s airing on the channel. The X1 platform has literally thousands of episodes of shows stored on their cloud-based software for customers to easily browse for free.

Again, your voice powers the X1 system.. Simply say “Flip or Flop” into the remote, and you’ll be taken to Comcast’s on-demand section where you can choose which episode you want to see from which season. And if you said the name of the show incorrectly — “Flip AND Flop,” for example — the AI technology will automatically correct it to match the title of the show they have stored.

It doesn’t stop there either. In 2016, Comcast partnered with Netflix to add the streaming service to the X1 platform. Customers can subscribe to Netflix right from their Xfinity cable subscription — and the X1 remote can power it all. This makes navigating Netflix a breeze.

Comcast has won two Emmy Awards for the X1 platform, one in 2014 and one in 2018. The latter of those awards was specifically for the X1 Voice Remote and its software platform.

Are Other Companies Following Suit?

Yes, they are. Well, not exactly. The X1 is certainly not the only voice remote on the market. It’s also not the only company that has integrated voice commands into streaming video services.

Amazon has been fairly innovative in the space as well. Consumers can use the company’s FireTV and voice remotes to navigate apps using their voice. People can even connect Alexa-powered devices such as an Echo Dot to power their cable TV. Alexa voice commands can be used on Samsung TVs, for example.

But, this still requires specific hardware to be purchased to make it work. A consumer must have an Alexa device such as an Echo Dot and an Alexa-enabled TV.

The X1 Voice Remote only requires an Xfinity subscription. It doesn’t matter which brand of TV you have, or whether you have a smart device from Amazon, Google, or any other company in your house.

This gives Xfinity a slight advantage in regions where their service is available. In fact, it’s in many ways keeping a good number of customers from cutting the cord.  Comcast currently says that 60% of its cable customers have the X1 remote, and it’s sure to be working on upping that percentage as fast as it can.

Will More Innovation Follow?

Like most successful things in media and technology, companies are sure to piggyback on the success Xfinity has been seeing with its X1 Voice Remote.

To an extent, many of the major companies already have developed their own browsing systems that are powered by voice. Amazon’s Alexa is one example. Apple TV integrates with Siri to power many apps and even live TV, but some options are still left out — including YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV.

The challenge for streaming companies and other cable companies is not just to create a voice-activated remote. More importantly, they must understand the mental models of consumers to better serve viewing habits and changing tastes. This appears to be a significant step in that direction.

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