On the Call: Comcast execs on new TV technology

Comcast Corp. is testing a system code-named Xcalibur that receives its TV signals with Internet technology and dispenses with the regular cable-box interface. On a conference call Wednesday with analysts, CEO Brian Roberts and Neil Smit, executive vice president of the cable division, were asked to lay out some of the company’s plans for the technology.

QUESTION: Can you just update us a bit on where we are with Xcalibur? I understand it requires a new set-top box. Will it be positioned as a premium service?

RESPONSE (Smit): Xcalibur is our next-gen (Internet Protocol) service and it provides a better (user interface) and access to a lot of different interactive services. We are testing down in Augusta (Ga.) right now, and we’ve been very pleased with the test results.

We are currently working on a rollout. We’ll go to a major market in the first half of the year, and then we will be rolling it out on a more widespread basis during the year.

We will be able to roll out Xcalibur across a variety of platforms including the Parker box that we have in Augusta, additional high-end set-top boxes, and other COAM devices ? customer owned and maintained devices ? such as the Xbox and other devices.

So from a positioning perspective, we are not quite clear how we want to position it yet. We’re working on that, and to what customers it will go and the pricing and whatnot. So that’s work in progress.

(Roberts): One of the most significant aspects that appeals to us … is having the guide be “in the cloud” and being able to move quickly to make changes and tweaks and modifications and create new apps. So we have an app we are testing. For instance I saw yesterday in the sports area where you get just instant access to all the various games on television. And you know what is happening right now and you can change or just get updates or little video snippets, a variety of things ? that will also work on the iPad shortly. So very, very exciting for the roadmap and have innovation when you move the brains out of the box into the cloud.