Comcast’s X1 cable boxes now serve up YouTube videos alongside traditional TV

Comcast’s cable boxes are getting YouTube. The cable TV company and Google today announced the addition of a YouTube app across Comcast’s Xfinity X1 service nationwide, which will allow customers to watch YouTube content alongside traditional TV programming. YouTube videos will also be featured in Xfinity on Demand, and will be accessible via the X1 voice remote.

The ability to voice control TV and video content is something a number of streaming media players favored by cord cutters offer, including Amazon’s Fire TV and Stick (via Alexa), Android TV (via Google Assistant), Roku, and Apple TV (via Siri), for example. More recently, traditional pay TV operators have been getting into the game as well, as Dish did earlier this year when it announced the ability to integrate with Amazon Alexa for hands-free TV.

Like its rivals, Comcast has been leveraging its voice remote to offer traditional TV viewers similar voice control capabilities. Last year, it added Netflix to its Xfinity X1 devices, also with voice control, and today also offers apps for other popular services, like Pandora, Instagram, and Facebook.

With the addition of YouTube to its lineup, X1 customers can launch the video app just by saying “YouTube” to their voice remote. They can also then search the billions of videos on YouTube’s service by asking for content using natural speech. For example, you can say things like “YouTube, show me make-up tutorials,” or “Find party dip recipes on YouTube,” says Comcast.

More specific videos can be called up, as well, by referencing them by name. The idea here is that YouTube often serves as a source of supplemental content related to what TV viewers are watching – that is, it can serve up things like trailers, teasers, clips, interviews, and other content. For instance, Comcast suggests you could say something like “Show me clips from ‘Empire’ on YouTube.”

The cable operator also cheekily suggests you can ask to “watch ‘Carpool Karaoke’ on YouTube” – a funny example, given that the Carpool Karaoke spinoff is one of Apple Music’s flagship shows. The point here being: why bother with a streaming music and video subscription from Apple, when you can just access all this content via YouTube instead, right from your cable TV box?

Related to that, Comcast notes that the YouTube app can serve up live streams, like those from concerts and big music events like Coachella, or other notable events, like the 2017 Grammy’s. Music videos and live streams will be in Xfinity’s On Demand section, too, as will eSports, other entertainment clips, local news, interviews, and more.

By adding YouTube to the On Demand section, content from YouTube creators gets equal footing alongside traditional TV programming – something that points to how much of people’s “TV time” today includes watching videos that didn’t air on TV. For instance, Google said in February that people were now watching 1 billion hours of YouTube videos per day.

“Giving our customers seamless access to live, on demand and internet content in one place continues to be a key part of our strategy and we are excited to now add YouTube to the X1 experience,” said Matt Strauss, Executive Vice President, Xfinity Services, Comcast Cable, in a statement. “By adding billions of YouTube videos to our video platform, we are taking our role as the aggregator of aggregators to a new level and reaffirming that X1 is the best place to easily discover and access all types of entertainment with the sound of your voice,” he said.

The move comes at a time when many consumers are giving up on cable TV, opting for their own mix of streaming services instead. Comcast, in particular, is heavily affected by this trend. Just last week, its stock dropped following another announcement from Strauss, who said the company will lose between 100,000 and 150,000 video subscribers during its 2017 fiscal third quarter.

Strauss blamed both increased competition in the U.S. and Hurricane Harvey for the expected losses.

Comcast has 21.48 million residential video subscribers as of its last earnings announcement in June.

In addition to accessing YouTube through voice and On Demand, X1 customers can also launch the new YouTube app located in the Apps and Networks sections of X1 starting today.