CABLE SHOW: Comcast connects with iPad remote
Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts talked up a nifty iPad remote during a general session today at The Cable Show.
The EBIF-based Xfinity remote allows subscribers to recommend a program to a friend without the friend needing to know what channel the program is on. The iPad Xfinity remote also allows the user to change channels on the TV – the remote communicates on its own with the headend – and features a channel guide that is cloud-based. Roberts said the remote “doesn’t take away from anything else” that Comcast is doing, but it represents one way that the cable operator is speeding up innovation with its viewers.
The prototype Web-based remote  works with IP-enabled devices, which include PCs, various tablets and smartphones, and it allows customers to search for programming on both linear TV and VOD. It also gives subscribers the ability to program their DVRs remotely. While Roberts didn’t say when the remote would be available, Comcast currently has the remote DVR function available for download.
Comcast Labs is also working on other social features such as a chat function.
Faced with multiple competitors sending content to various devices, Roberts said the remote was one way to embrace new technology without “throwing away old business models.”
A common theme among panelists of the “Media Everywhere: Implications of the Always-On Network” general session was that viewing content across different devices represents an opportunity instead of a threat, but that those involved need to be monetized for their efforts.
CBS President and CEO Les Moonves said an episode of “CSI” costs about $3 million to produce, but the monetary return for someone watching an episode online doesn’t support the production costs, which is why CBS hasn’t made its content available to Hulu.
Moonves also said there needs to be some consideration in regard to putting the right content on the right devices. The example he cited was watching the movie “Avatar” on a cell phone.
Time Warner Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said viewers not only want to watch content when they want and where they want, but also want to be able to interact with it. As long as there’s financial support, he said, “there’s tremendous opportunity” for content owners and cable programmers to create programming that customers can interact with.