Comcast's Javier García talks TV innovation by and for Latinos
Javier García, vice president and general manager of multicultural affairs at Comcast, talked to AL DÍA News about some of the innovations being developed here in Philadelphia for bicultural Latinos across the nation, including some of the features of the X1 platform for TV subscribers.
Before joining the company headquartered in Philadelphia in late 2014, García was in Miami leading a team in charge of developing the U.S. Hispanic business for Yahoo. According to him, a decisive factor in making the move was Comcast’s priority for the bicultural Latino market — his position reports two levels down from the CEO — and the opportunity to develop products created by and for Latinos rather than just marketing existing products to them.
In the past year, he has led a team in the development of products based on three premises: innovation; a comprehensive approach to the bicultural U.S. Hispanic market; and a passion for family and soccer.
Typically any innovations to a cable box would take months or years to implement because in many cases the box itself had to be replaced. However the X1 platform is cloud based, “which means all of the things that we do are being pushed to consumer houses right away,” he said.
In a sea of options, with more than 50,000 programming choices (depending on the subscription level) the question for García was how to make content relevant for Latinos.
“Because we are bicultural we consume general market content and Latino content as well,” he said. “We like ‘The Blacklist’ but we also like the Latin Grammys.” Ultimately, the approach was to provide consumers with a choice.
The X1 platform is highly visual and intuitive, it allows for customization including filtering content to find what you are looking for, to the extent that you don’t even need to remember what channel is on. It also works as a DVR and has a companion app for mobile devices to watch programming on the go.
When it comes to primetime TV, it displays the most popular English language shows next to telenovelas — “The Whisperers” next to “Al Rojo Vivo,” next to “American Ninja Warrior,” next to “El Señor de los Cielos” — because, according to García, they are all as relevant to Hispanics. There is also a Latino folder curated by a team of bicultural Hispanics, where you can find relevant content, movie collections and music videos.
Then, there are the “passion points” for Latinos, with soccer being at front and center, according to García. The X1 platform allows users to see all the recent games for leagues beyond the ones Latinos usually tune in to, including stats and recent games.
“Ultimately this is a gateway into soccer because I have all the content I want,” he said.
Another “passion point” for Latinos, according to him, is family. Research has shown that around 40 percent of the Latino households in the Comcast footprint are young, bilingual families with small children.
“Language is no longer a barrier so we are not trying to provide a solution for people who don’t understand English,” García said. “However, language is a competitive advantage and even people who don't speak Spanish want their kids to.”
The X1 platform allows the user to filter a vast selection of content in Spanish or with Second Audio Programming (SAP) in Spanish. SAP is nothing new — in fact it has been around since the 1980s — however the platform opens up a world of possibilities. For Latino families, this means the youngest ones can learn Spanish watching “Dora the Explorer” or “El Chavo” in this language, and also that they don’t have to limit their options to watching whatever is playing on Univision or Telemundo when abuelo joins in on a movie night.
“You can filter all the new movies that have SAP in Spanish so you can watch the movies you want in the language you want,” García said. “Essentially this is unlocking a lot of content for the family that we didn’t know it existed.”
The platform also allows the user to switch the entire user interface into Spanish making it easier for abuela to navigate it by herself instead of having to depend on others to tune into the telenovela.
Then there’s the remote control with voice navigation (If you flip it over, you will read “Made with Love in Philadelphia”) which allows users to find what they are looking for by pulling all related content in answer to a query, whether it’s a show, a musician or actor. In a demonstration, the platform had no problem understanding García’s accent, unlike Siri.
“We wanted to make it bicultural,” García said. “Sometimes we say Univision in Spanish or Univision in English. Sometimes I want to watch a novela and sometimes I just want to watch American Ninja Warrior.”