Comcast Corp. has begun selling its TV, Internet and phone service through Amazon.com, marking the cable giant's highest-profile online retail partnership.
A new landing page on Amazon.com now welcomes visitors to the "Amazon Cable Store," which sells Comcast's Xfinity-branded bundles, including dedicated customer service for Amazon customers.
The deal came about when Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts and the cable division's president, Neil Smit, took a trip to Silicon Valley about a year ago, according to a person familiar with the matter. The two talked with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about ways to work together, and one idea that came up was selling Comcast products through the e-retailer, the person said.
Over the course of a year, the two companies hashed out a way to sell TV, Internet and phone service in a way that would simplify the process.
"They helped us in our thinking about how to simplify the experience and just make it clean," Mr. Smit said in an interview. For example, Amazon helped Comcast reduce the number of clicks that it takes for a customer to complete a transaction. "We're partnering with a company that's so good at the customer experience—I think that's really what excites me."
Amazon will take a fee each time a customer signs up for a Comcast subscription through its site, a person familiar with the deal said. Typical "referral fees" for goods sold on Amazon by third parties can range from single-digit percentages to 15% or more.
Mr. Smit said that, down the line, Comcast could sell other products like its home security service through Amazon as well. He said the Amazon sales channel will also make it easier for people who are shopping for a TV set, for example, to be offered Comcast's video service. Comcast said the pricing for bundles on Amazon will be the same as what appears on its own website.
The Amazon-Comcast tie-up was first reported by TVPredictions.com.
Charter Communications Inc. is also in discussions with Amazon about a retail partnership, a Charter spokesman said, though no final decisions have been made. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to elaborate on other potential partnerships with cable companies, though Amazon's page appears to be set up to also sell other companies' services.
Cable companies have long hawked their products both through their own sales channels and some authorized retailers, including brick-and-mortar stores like Best Buy. Comcast is hoping that partnering with Amazon will help improve its brand perception as it seeks to reimagine its customer service, after some poor interactions between Comcast representatives and subscribers went viral in recent years.
The cable giant last May budgeted more than $300 million toward new customer service efforts such as hiring more representatives and opening more call centers. It's also been renovating its physical stores to give them a more Apple-like feel to encourage people to play with its products and buy them.
A Comcast spokesman said it has set aside customer call centers in Tucson, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash., employing about 90 representatives trained just to receive inquiries about Comcast sales made through Amazon. The customer representatives' goal is to "answer your call in 60 seconds or less," with no waiting, according to Amazon's landing page.
The Amazon site provides an easy link to help customers know how to "avoid leasing fees" by buying their own compatible modems and Wi-Fi routers. The site also promises that people can cancel Comcast subscriptions within 30 days or select a no-term contract to downgrade or disconnect whenever they wish.
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