Much like blaming AT&T for dropped calls (whether you actually suffered one or not), hating Comcast has become such an accepted part of the brand mythology in America that you don't even have to prove your point any more. I have used Comcast for years, and other than ridiculously overpriced HD and irritating monthly fee creep, I have not had a real problem with them. But I have absorbed the anti-Comcast reflex enough so that any little problem moves me to a quicker boil. They have no good will to bank on. When I feel as if customer service is giving me a runaround, my standard line is, "Fix this now or the next call I make will be to Verizon FiOS."
The incredibly expensive, ham-handed, creatively challenged attempt to paint over the dingy Comcast moniker with Xfinity has got to go down as one of the king botches in rebranding history. I know this tech and communications stuff, and I have to admit that there was a time last year when this Comcast customer didn't really understand what Xfinity was. Now that I know it is just Comcast trying not to be Comcast, I resist even more having its silly self-celebratory ads move me to adopt the name. (Oh, those ecstatic Xfinity users. Now that a locked-up housing market keeps them from doing the low-mortgage-rate dance, they need something to celebrate, I guess.)
But Comcast is trying to get its hip cred any way it can. It announced yesterday in a sort of "Netflix, what Netflix?" fashion that since 2003 its users have accessed over 20 billion on-demand videos. The company is hoping to convince us that it really is keeping up with the hip newcomers. In 2003 they say they served 200 million videos from less than 1,000 choices. Today there are 25,000 "entertainment options" being viewed at a rate of 350 million a month.
I guess that metric is supposed to be like Steve Jobs announcing how many billions of apps have been downloaded now -- a number without much of a reference point. But it is a really big number, so there! The lists of "most-viewed" content are unsurprising: "Hangover," "South Park," "SpongeBob" and the like. Worth noting that "The Sopranos" still tops the dramatic series list after all of these years. One standout is the most-viewed-overall 3D program: The Yule Log 3D. Given the rickety roll-out of 3D in home entertainment, consumer ennui and the dearth of compatible content, there is something sad and fitting about this.
Comcast is launching a silly awards program attached to this 20 Billion "milestone" to recognize the most viewed entertainers. There will be sweepstakes. And Lord knows there will be more people dancing in Xfinity Ecstasy in TV ads.
Curiously, the hippest part of Comcast is not put forward often enough -- the very good iOS apps. My Xfinity iPad app speaks directly to my cable box, and it is light years better for interactive guide browsing than the on-screen pop-up. Better yet, the app is doing a fair job of mimicking Netflix with an enlarging library of "Watch Now" movies and TV shows from the free on-demand library. The app knows who I am and what I subscribe to, so it lets me access HBO films and back episodes but locks me out of "Nurse Jackie" on Showtime.
The company says it now has 60,000 choices on XfinityTV.com and on the apps. This is where the morphing Comcast brand has the best chance of establishing its next-gen credibility.