Comcast launched its TV Everywhere service last December amid heated debates over how cable providers could compete with existing over-the-top TV applications. Now called Xfinity Online TV, the service is set to emerge from beta next month.
We’ve heard very little from Comcast directly about how its online TV offering has fared since its introduction nine months ago. Unofficial reports suggest the service has been reasonably popular, and rumors are circulating that Comcast has a lot more up its sleeve on the online front: more content for one, and mobile device support for another. Comcast has also hinted that it will streamline the authentication process when the Xfinity online service comes out of beta.
On the authentication front, Marty Roberts, VP for thePlatform, the Comcast subsidiary handling sign-on issues for a number of TV Everywhere initiatives, recently detailed what the company has learned about authentication from its early deployments. Roberts suggests that, even as it stands today, authentication is not overly burdensome. He cites the large number of subscribers who signed on to ESPN3 during the World Cup as evidence. He also states that authentication should be done by a service provider rather than a content programmer to avoid sharing personal user names and passwords. This can be handled in two ways – either by redirecting a user to the service provider’s site, or by embedding that provider’s login application on the programmer site.
The Xfinity Online TV service has been chugging along in a very understated way for the last nine months, but that may be about to change as the beta label comes off. There’s still a lot we don’t know too about what will happen if and when Comcast acquires NBC Universal. How will Hulu fit in to the Xfinity picture? Only time will tell.