Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Comcast says you'll catch every Olympics medal - and every crash
By MIKE COTE
Comcast has introduced new features on its Xfinity X1 platform to watch NBC's coverage of the Winter Games. (COURTESY)
In the 1970 World Ski Flying Championships in Oberstdorf, West Germany, Slovenian skier Vinko Bogataj wiped out on the takeoff ramp and tumbled toward a gallery of spectators, suffering a concussion and a broken ankle.
The crash would be replayed for years in the opening montage of "ABC's Wide World of Sports," accompanied by the phrase "the agony of defeat."
For this year's Winter Olympics, Comcast has a spotlight for that kind of thing. It's one of 50 virtual channels on Xfinity X1 culled from NBC's Olympics coverage.
Because sometimes people get bored by the "thrill of victory."
"People care about curling when it's the Olympics - 'What is this?' - and they just turn it on and watch it and want to see more," Comcast spokesman Marc Goodman says. "But sometimes even more important than the gold medals is people want to see the spills and the mishaps that happen along the way at the Olympics. There's a channel just dedicated for that."
For viewers more interested in gain than pain, technology makes it easy to root for your favorite Olympians and monitor their success.
"It's a unifying experience, and people want to see, obviously, the U.S. do well," Goodman said Wednesday while demonstrating Comcast's Olympics menu at the company's regional headquarters in Manchester. "So no surprise, one of the go-to features is the medal count screen so you can track that easily right through hitting the 'C' button on your remote or saying 'Sports App' into the voice remote. 'Olympics Home' is the key voice command to know for finding all the Olympic content."
For the 2016 Summer Olympics, the cable giant introduced many of the features viewers can use to sift through thousands of hours of Olympics programming. The Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, offer Comcast another opportunity to showcase technology that can help retain customers and gain new ones in an era that has cable and satellite TV providers competing with low-cost streaming services.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA) has considerable turf to protect. The company employs 164,000 people, including 2,000 in New Hampshire. Its market capitalization is more than $186 billion. The company's holdings include cable networks, broadcast television, film and theme parks. The cable segment provides video, high-speed Internet, land-line phone services, home security and a recently introduced cellphone service.
Comcast is branching out into solar. Goodman had no news on when that service will be introduced in New Hampshire, though a giant banner that says "Solar Coming in 2018" has been hanging outside the company's Manchester headquarters for months.
NBC, which is owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal division, will be providing more than 2,400 hours of Olympics coverage. Comcast customers will be able to use 1,500 Olympic-specific voice commands - such as "USA Men's Hockey" or "Alpine Skiing" - to search through it live and on-demand.
They can also use the voice remote to search out New Hampshire Olympians by name, including Patrick Caldwell of Lyme, a cross-country skier; Sean Doherty, of Center Conway, a biathlete; Broc Little, of Rindge, on the U.S. ice hockey team; and Eric Loughran of Pelham, a freestyle skier.
Another new feature this year is instant on-demand, which allows viewers to restart on any of the Olympics channels to watch the latest coverage. About eight to 10 hours of content will be available the next day in the new 4K high resolution format, also known as Ultra HD, Goodman said.
Comcast has made it easier this time around for customers to watch the Olympics on their mobile devices. For the 2016 Summer Olympics, that meant cobbling content together from multiple places such as the NBS Sports app. Now it's all in one place.
"The experience you can watch on TV is replicated on the Xfinity Stream app so you can take the Olympics experience on the go with you and access all 2,400 hours that will be available," Goodman said.
So if you're stuck waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, you can find out who just won a gold medal - or who just took a spectacular spill.
Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.