Comcast Brings Facebook to the Set-Top Box

New XFinity system has trending shows

There were gadget-mongers galore pitching their wares during the Cable Show that closed yesterday in Chicago, from newer, smarter set-top boxes to sleeker, faster broadband modems. But one innovation was particularly striking: Comcast’s new version of Xfinity TV, which offers users the ability to connect to Facebook inside their program guides and decide on what shows to watch based on what’s trending among their online friends.

It’s a melding of social networking and TV to a degree the industry is only beginning to experiment with, but the potential for advertisers, cable carriers, and programmers is clear. “It’s called ‘friend trends,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said as he demonstrated the system at the final general session of the three-day-long cable show.  “It allows you to see what you’re friends are liking while watching Hulu … or TV.”

The new version of Xfinity also offers a cloud-based platform, which can be updated instantaneously across all of a consumer's devices everywhere—and this, and not the Facebook feature, was the point on which Roberts chose to dwell. But that didn't stop him from unveiling an unwieldy new buzz phrase to describe the implications of the new Facebook feature.  “It’s the beginning of a social networking television experience,” Roberts said.