Comcast won’t join the internet TV crowd, but still looks to test video service

Dish and Sony may be close to launching their internet-based TV services, but Comcast has no plans to join them any time soon. The company doesn’t want to target viewers outside of its cable footprint with an internet-based TV service, confirmed Comcast CEO Brian Roberts during a press event in San Francisco Wednesday. “We are not looking to do that,” he said.

That’s despite the fact that [company]Comcast[/company] has all the technology in place that could be used to launch such a service: The company has been busy rolling out a cloud DVR that saves scheduled recordings on Comcast’s servers, ready to be streamed to any supported device. Comcast recently expanded its cloud DVR to the San Francisco Bay Area, and is now offering it to subscribers across 50 percent of its markets.

As of now, Comcast’s cloud DVR still works in tandem with the company’s X1 set-top box, which Comcast has installed 5 million units of so far. But theoretically, Comcast could also offer live TV and DVR capabilities to users without a set-top box in their homes. In fact, the company has already been doing just that on select college campuses, where all live and on-demand programming is being streamed over the internet.

So what stops Comcast from offering the same to internet service subscribers of [company]Cox[/company], [company]Cablevision[/company] or any of its other competitors? Roberts argued Wednesday that the company sees its infrastructure as an integral part of its Xfinity line of products. Another answer may be that cable TV comes with much smaller margins than phone or broadband, so it makes sense for Comcast to use its TV service as a way to sell those more lucrative services – something that its competitor Dish can’t do because it doesn’t have its own pipes in the ground.

Roberts did say that Comcast may license some of the technology powering Xfinity TV to competitors in the future, and he deflected questions about the impact of HBO’s recently-announced internet streaming service on Comcast, quipping that reporters should ask HBO about HBO’s plans.

However, Comcast still has some online video plans of its own: Comcast Video Services VP Matt Strauss confirmed at the sidelines of the event that the company is still looking to bring online video programming to its X1 set-top box. This could include a Comcast-run video service; Strauss had told me earlier this year that Comcast was looking to test such a service by the end of the year. On Wednesday, he said that those tests are now likely going to happen next year.

This post was updated at 2:27pm. A previous version of this post stated that Comcast has installed X1 set-top boxes in 5 million households, but the company has actually installed 5 million units total.