Imagine if Superman and Lex Luthor, after years at each other’s throats, elected to shake hands and bury the hatchet, and that’s pretty much what just happened with Netflix and Comcast. (I’ll let the reader draw his or her own conclusions as to which is which.) On the one hand, as business deals go, it’s a fairly major and unexpected one with potential ramifications for both the cable and streaming industries. On the other hand, it may not make much of a difference for the average user.
Tech news site Recode received a statement from the two companies explaining that Comcast plans to incorporate Netflix into its X1 platform later this year. For those who remain free of Comcast’s many-tentacled grasp, X1 is an operating system that links together Comcast’s cable boxes as well as users’ computers and mobile devices. They can watch cable channels as well as access streaming content, control DVR options and just generally manage what they want to see both at home and on-the-go.
Given the animosity between the two companies, it’s just a few steps shy of a miracle that Netflix will call X1 its home later this year. Comcast has throttled Netflix for its users in the past, instead trying to funnel them toward its own streaming offerings. Netflix was understandably not happy about this, and up until the companies’ joint announcement, there was no indication that those wounds were healing.
Still, Netflix making its way onto another streaming box is, in and of itself, not terribly surprising. Netflix is already perhaps the most prominent streaming service on the market, with availability on almost every kind of computer, smartphone, tablet, streaming media player and smart TV. It’s no stranger to pay-TV boxes, either: satellite network Dish has hosted Netflix apps on its devices for a while.
For that reason alone — its ubiquity — the Netflix deal with Comcast is perhaps not as exciting for everyday users as it is for industry analysts. Yes, Netflix will probably get a few new subscribers, and Comcast may offer some incentive to subscribe, or even integrate Netflix recommendations and searches with X1’s existing functionalities. But users already have a thousand ways to watch Netflix, and chances are, they already have one or more in their home. The X1 integration is a matter of convenience.
Still, no red-blooded couch potato has ever turned up his or her nose at a little extra convenience before, so Comcast users who also subscribe to Netflix may soon find their lives a tiny bit easier. At least the big cable company won’t try to throttle Netflix service again. Probably.