The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off today in Russia, and the U.S. isn’t going to be participating, much to the chagrin of millions of Americans and TV and marketing executives. But Comcast isn’t letting America’s soccer struggles hinder its efforts to ensure Xfinity X1 customers have the most technologically advanced World Cup viewing experience possible, both in English and Spanish.
Comcast is bringing a massive World Cup content hub to its X1 platform, with screens, menus and voice commands available in both languages. The content will integrate all live linear coverage from Telemundo, which has exclusive U.S. Spanish language TV rights to the matches, and Fox Sports, which has U.S. English language TV rights to the matches, on the X1 platform, where 22 million residential X1 video subscribers will have the ability to watch full-game replays, highlights, web video, real-time analytics and on-screen player and team stats. X1 customers will also be able to receive notifications on their TV or phone, letting them know when their go-to team is about to hit the soccer pitch.
according to the company, over 32 million Hispanics tuned into the 2014 World Cup games, that’s 80 percent of Hispanic households. Comcast is the nation’s largest cable provider of Spanish-language programming and offers more than 60 Spanish-language channels.
“The World Cup is one of the biggest television events of the year, and we’ve created an unparalleled viewing experience for today’s increasingly bicultural soccer fan,” said Comcast senior director of multicultural services Michael D’Emilio. “X1 can integrate and curate content like no other platform, ensuring that our soccer experience will include every match – live and On Demand – as well as a host of related content and new features and capabilities.”
The Xfinity Stream mobile app will have livestreams of World Cup action on the English- and Spanish-language U.S. networks carrying the matches. Xfinity Stream app users will have access to full-event replays and highlights on demand, or they can watch pregame and postgame analysis.
For those with X1 set-top boxes, the integrated X1 Sports App gives viewers a way to set recordings, watch live matches and access real-time stats from matches.
The X1 voice-activated remote has also been integrated to help viewers navigate the World Cup experience. The voice remote is quite popular; according to Comcast, more than 1.5 billion voice commands were generated on the X1 platform in the first quarter of the year.
Comcast owns Telemundo but says ownership will not affect how the company presents the matches. There will be equal representation on the content hub from both Telemundo and Fox Sports, said Vito Forlenza, senior director, TV Everywhere content and product strategy for Comcast Cable.
“The slight is exception is that the 4K UHD content will be only for Telemundo, but we’ll have all 64 of the live games, regardless of what network it’s on, and every replay on demand in both English and Spanish,” Forlenza said.
The World Cup content hub is a continuation of other destinations Comcast has created for its X1 platform surrounding marquee television events, beginning with the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“We had traditional TV, and traditional video-on-demand sitting next to internet content coming from the NBC Sports app—which they integrated into the X1 at the time—as well as highlights and short-form video clips streaming over the internet,” Forlenza said.
X1 eventually turned the Rio 2016 content hub into an “2016 presidential election hub,” Forlenza said, “and what you had was all of the major news channels lined up together, as well as your local broadcast stations, to go with all kinds of on-demand coverage.”
The experience could conceivably morph into an “midterm election hub” later in 2018.
Throughout 2017, there were content hubs for the Super Bowl, March Madness and the fall TV season Comcast delivered to X1. For the 2018 Winter Olympics, the company added an Olympics channels feature, 50 virtual channels and playlists where one video plays after another. The addition of the Winter Olympics virtual channels feature led to a 300 percent increase in page views relative to Rio 2016, Forlenza said.
X1 is bringing back the channels feature for the 2018 World Cup content hub, where viewers will be able to access top highlights, top goals and other channels, all of which are created and curated by X1’s editors.
“When you talk about what we have learned over time about the different content experiences, the ‘channels’ option was something that we noticed customers really liked and engaged with,” Forlenza said. “We had such tremendous feedback, so we’re bringing it back for the World Cup.”