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Comcast to license its X1 platform to cable rival Cox

A partnership between the country's biggest cable-TV provider and its smaller competitor would provide Cox customers with a "white label" version of Comcast's high-tech video operating system.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

Comcast Corp., the country's biggest cable company, has entered a partnership with its smaller rival Cox Communications to license its X1 video software system.

Executives disclosed the partnership Tuesday on a conference call discussing Comcast's fourth-quarter earnings, in which lower-than-expected growth in earnings was outshined by solid revenue gains, video subscriber increases for the first time in years, and investor rewards like a boosted dividend.

Reuters reported that Comcast and Cox were in advanced talks over an X1 license earlier Tuesday.

Comcast had already hinted that such an outcome was in the offing. Earlier this month, Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Roberts told investors at a Citi conference that the company was open to making the software system available to others under a license, saying it would work on "other cable systems quite easily."

Comcast's X1 software has been praised for being at the forefront of the industry. It takes advantage of cloud capabilities for more storage and features, integrates search across different types of content, and improves channel guide for better usability.

During Tuesday's conference call, executives said that X1 has been rolled out across its entire cable footprint, and that video-on-demand usage is 25 percent higher for X1 subscribers, video-on-demand purchases are 20 percent higher on X1, and more X1 customers use DVR.

Cox Communications is the country's No. 3 cable provider by subscribers, behind Comcast and Time Warner Cable.