Comcast’s ‘X2′ to Get Personal With the TV

Jeff Baumgartner, Light Reading

2/26/13

NCTC Winter Educational Conference (WEC)– Comcast Corp. is adding enhancements to its cloud-based guide that will deliver personalized recommendations based on viewing habits and other data.

The product under development, internally referred to as “X2,” will offer a “stronger editorial voice throughout the guide,” said Rachel Lee, Comcast’s senior director of product management, here Monday on a panel dedicated to cable’s evolving video gateway strategy. The X2 will also use recommendations to assemble “collections” of video content based on customer interests.

Lee didn’t say when Comcast intends to launch these enhancements, but the operator has dedicated a sizeable engineering team to the latest version of the cloud-based guide. “We’re pretty far into development,” she said. “It’s a … significant effort.”

It’s unlikely that Comcast will use the X2 label to promote the features that will grace the upcoming version of its cloud-based guide. Comcast is already marketing its new IP-capable video product under the X1 banner. Comcast has launched X1 in seven markets: Colorado Springs, Colo.; Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Boston; Chattanooga, Tenn.; San Francisco; and the Philadelphia area. Comcast is expected to launch X1 to the majority of its footprint this year. (See Comcast’s X1 Comes to Colorado.)

Lee told Light Reading Cable that the enhanced, more personalized X2 guide is made to run on devices that support the first iteration Comcast’s cloud-based guide. For now, that includes the Pace plc-made XG1 HD-DVR and the RNG150N client box. Comcast is also developing an all-IP HD client box called the Xi3 and a “headless” gateway called the XG5. (See Comcast All-Service Gateways Go ‘Headless’.)

Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit referenced the X2 in an internal video broadcast late last year, noting that it would offer more personalization. At the time, Comcast would only confirm that the X2 represented an “evolution” of the X1 platform. (See Comcast Exec Talks Up X2, Cloud DVR.)

Comcast hasn’t announced its vendor partners for the X2′s recommendation engine, but one candidate is ThinkAnalytics Ltd., a Scotland-based vendor that generates unique preference profiles on set-tops, tablets, smartphones and PCs by mining metadata and tracking usage patterns. (See Brits Rev Up Recommendation Engine.)

ThinkAnalytics, by the way, is the first recommendation engine vendor to secure a license for the Comcast Reference Design Kit (RDK), an integrated software bundle for the MSO’s hybrid QAM/IP and IP-only set-top boxes. Boxes that run the X1 are the first products to incorporate Comcast’s RDK. (See ThinkAnalytics Gets Personal With Comcast’s RDK, Who’s On Board With Comcast’s Set-Top Kit?)

Some of ThinkAnalytics’s announced customers include Liberty Global Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Swisscom AG and Virgin Media Inc. . At last check, the vendor had deals with more than 40 customers and 100 million licensed subscribers. (See ThinkAnalytics Touts Video Milestone and Cox Brings OTT-Like Smarts to the Set-top.)