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TV Anywhere: Comcast Xfinity VOD mobile TV player hits Android

Comcast TV customers have been waiting for this for a while: the ability to stream video to their Android smartphones and tablets. Having HBO and Showtime in your hip pocket or backpack is a great perk of being a Comcast customer, but is the software forwarding the TV Anywhere trend, working to beat Hulu Plus, or just late to an over-crowded party?

The app installs in less than a minute and allows you to watch thousands of XFINITY ON Demand TV shows and movies anytime, anywhere. You can use it on your Android smartphone or on a tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Channels include HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, as well as cable channels like TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and BBC America.

One key drawback of the app is that there is no way to queue shows; you cannot set up a list of your favorite networks or click to save favorite shows. However, there are numerous ways to filter, and you can adjust to view specific networks, genres and filter via keywords.

One great feature is you can hide locked items, meaning if you are not subscribed to a specific network or channel, you can lock it out and hide it so you won’t see programming you are not signed up to receive. Parental controls are robust and offer many options. You can set restrictions based on TV ratings, movie ratings and networks. You can also lock anything out with a PIN. Although in the app, it does jump you out to Comcast's Xfinity Web site to set up and manage the parental settings.

While Comcast is not the first to the market with this type of solution, it’s certainly riding the crest of a current wave. The TV Anywhere initiative is an important one, and many providers are scrambling to come up with solutions that provide added value while trying to avoid having people cutting the cord. A lot of this is based on authentication systems. Apps such as those from Time Warner and Comcast rely on the fact that you are already a subscriber, and in fact, must verify that is the case.

Mostly this is working, as these type of “free” apps and services provide a lot of value and seem like a better bargain than “paid” apps and services such as Hulu Plus and Netflix. In fact, customers are getting used to apps that are provided as a free complement than paying an additional fee for added networks and channels.

Hulu Plus announced recently that in its future (a vague kind of timeline), customers would need to authenticate and prove that they are a cable television subscriber. Cord cutters were notably upset with this notion, but no formal plans have been announced so far. This will give Comcast and Time Warner even more leverage, because if Hulu is charging more, and requiring that you need to subscribe to cable, the perception could only benefit the cable providers’ free apps.

Comcast Xfinity Mobile TV Player is now available in the Google Play Android store, and with so many iOS iPad and iPhone apps out, many users will be happy that Comcast has come to the Android party. Compared to services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, these types of free accessory apps will only develop, expand and gain popularity over time.