With more and more devices and services vying for our entertainment dollar, cable companies are starting to lose ground. Where once cable offered the only real option for in-home content delivery, there are now dozens of streaming services offering a wide variety of movies and shows, not to mention powerful home consoles and countless gaming services that not only offer interactive entertainment, but also act as media centers, providing access to video content on demand.
Cable companies have made efforts to keep up with the changing media landscape by expanding their video-on-demand offerings and opening up their boxes to a limited selection of apps, but have still seen a large number of former customers jump to cheaper, more robust options for their media delivery. If a proposed EA partnership deal goes through, however, Comcast will be making a major play at bringing back some of those customers by offering streaming games on your TV.
Reuters is reporting that cable giant Comcast is close to reaching a deal with EA that will bring streaming games to its X1 cable box. The cloud-enabled X1, already the most advanced cable box operating system on the market, will enable subscribers to play EA games on Comcast's cable boxes, with controls handled by a connected tablet. While the deal is not complete and game offerings have not been finalized, FIFA, Madden, Monopoly and Plants vs. Zombies are listed as franchises expected to be included, with more titles available in the future. A feature like this would help Comcast to compete with other streaming boxes like AppleTV, Roku and Amazon’s FireTV, which have eaten into cable revenues by streaming games alongside video content.
With 22 million customers in the U.S., Comcast is one of the biggest players in the cable industry. If it receives regulatory approval, the proposed $45 billion buyout of Time Warner Cable would make it the largest provider by far, with an estimated 33 million subscribers. An install base like that is certainly attractive to EA, and presumably to other major publishers who could certainly follow suit if the partnership proves successful. While EA still dominates the game publishing biz, it has struggled in recent months, lowering its 2015 revenue forecast and reporting sluggish software sales. A huge injection of potential new customers like this could be exactly what the company needs to get back on track.
For years, pundits and consumers alike have predicted a time when all of our media would be delivered by one box. For some, the cable box represents the old ways of thinking, but new features like this could be a huge step in Comcast’s efforts to compete in a market that seems to evolve on a weekly basis. If Comcast is smart, it'll make one small change to its current plans: giving customers a physical controller. Playing on a tablet sucks.