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​Comcast’s Q3 highlights how to navigate customer shifts, end of the cable

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Comcast’s third quarter results were better than expected and the familiar storyline revolves around how customers are cutting the cord. That storyline is legit, but Comcast’s broadband business is booming and its move to embrace and integrate over-the-top services with its X1 platform appears to be paying off.

At a high level, Comcast reported third quarter earnings of $2.88 billion, or 62 cents a share, on revenue of $22.13 billion, up 5 percent from a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings for the third quarter were 65 cents a share. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 61 cents a share on revenue of $21.82 billion.

In addition, Comcast saw its business services unit continue to deliver strong growth with third quarter revenue of $1.8 billion, up 10.6 percent from a year ago. But the notable surge in the third quarter, came from Comcast’s high-speed Internet business as revenue jumped 9.6 percent.

Comcast’s digital transformation journey:

Comcast added 363,000 high-speed Internet customers in the quarter to more than offset 106,000 video customer net losses. A 35,000 net loss in voice customers was offset by 42,000 customer additions for security and automation.

If you break those customer relationships down, it’s clear that Comcast is losing the bundle, but retaining single product customers. Add it up and Comcast is navigating shifts in its customer base as well as any company.

On a conference call with analysts, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said:

Customer relationship net adds of 288,000 were driven by 363,000 net new Broadband customers, the best third quarter in 10 years. Collectively, residential Broadband and business services revenue increased by nearly 10%.

Roberts added that the move to look at its broadband holistically as a product–rebranded xFi–adding new features like parental controls and hooks into the smart home have paid off. “By aggregating and integrating everything from linear TV, to applications like Netflix, YouTube and soon, Amazon Prime Video, X1 delivers an unmatched user experience and the broadest range of content that underscores the value of our broadband service,” said Roberts.

comcast-customer-relationships-q3.png

The other thread worth noting is that Comcast’s ability to keep single product customers enables it to cross-sell another bundle in the future. For instance, Comcast’s wireless business just past more than 1 million customer lines. Perhaps the broadband and mobile bundle is the new cable-ish package for customers.

Comcast certainly has its challenges ahead. For instance, 5G will create a new set of broadband competitors. In addition, Comcast still has to get its networking blocking and tackling down. A series of outages for business customers spurred a same old Comcast refrain. But it’s hard to count Comcast out given the way it has navigated things so far.

Related:

Comcast Business launches analytics for SmartOffice video, motion detection

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Waymo is building a new replica city to test its driverless tech

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Waymo is opening two new autonomous vehicle facilities, including a dense urban playground for its self-driving passenger cars as they refine their human-replacing technology. The Alphabet-owned company, spun out from Google’s labs, currently operates a ride-hailing program in Phoenix, AZ, Waymo One, but has visions of far broader applications for driverless cars and trucks.

Waymo One recently came out of closed beta, offering app-summoned rides in a self-driving vehicle around a geofenced area. At the wheel is the Waymo Driver, the company’s name for its autonomous driving technology – including software and hardware – which it plans to apply not only to taxi-alternatives but Class 8 trucks, too.

Both of those concepts will now have a new place for research, development, and testing. First up, Waymo is working with the Transportation Research Center (TRC) in East Liberty, Ohio, to open a brand new testing environment for the Waymo Driver. It’ll be built according to Waymo’s specific requirements for its autonomous vehicles, and allow for testing rare or more dangerous events that are uncommonly seen on public roads.

“This new testing facility will model a dense urban environment and enable us to test longtail challenges you might never encounter on public roads as we continue to advance the fifth-generation Waymo Driver,” the company said today, “our most advanced software and hardware (including lidar, cameras, and radar) yet.”

Waymo will also use TRC’s other facilities, including its truck testing tracks. That’s part of the company’s focus on replacing human drivers in semi-trucks for haulage, with the Waymo Driver set to be at the heart of new autonomous trucks in a collaboration with industry heavyweight Daimler. The goal there is production driverless trucks – based on the Freightliner Cascadia – on sale in the US “in the coming years.”

Focusing on that goal specifically, a new R&D facility for trucking will be opening in Menlo Park, CA. It’ll move into the new location early in the new year, and allow Waymo space not only to refine the fifth-generation Waymo Driver on Class 8 trucks, but provide space for its fleet of test vehicles and the team working on them.

This isn’t the first time Waymo has used closed-course testing, mind. The company already has a 91 acre city mock-up, at Castle Air Force base in Merced, CA, which includes a variety of setups including suburbs and high-speed highways. There, it can run repeated trials on specific challenges – such as dealing safety with railroad crossings or roundabouts – at a much more rapid pace than out on public roads.

The TRC partnership, however, will add to that with a number of advantages. Given the location, it’ll introduce different weather types: much more rain and snow, particularly. Since autonomous vehicle sensors can be challenged by reduced visibility and other conditions, that’s an important area of testing. Waymo is also taking advantage of the proximity to Waymo Detroit, in Novi, MI, for easier transportation of newly Driver-equipped vehicles to the test site.

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Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition makes crossover EV even faster

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Ford is adding a new, even more potent version of its electric crossover, with the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition adding speed and torque to live up to the pony badging. Based on the Mustang Mach-E GT announced at the end of 2019, the Performance Edition package will trim the estimated 0-60 mph time from 3.8 seconds, Ford says, to 3.5 seconds.

With two electric motors – one for the front and one for the rear, for e-AWD – there’ll be the same 480 horsepower or 358 kW of power. Torque, however, will increase: the regular GT gets 600 lb-ft, but the GT Performance Edition will bump that up to 634 lb-ft.

Other changes include 19-inch front brakes with red-painted Brembo calipers, plus different wheels. The Performance Edition gets 20-inch machined-face alloys, with Ebony Black-painted pockets. 245/45R20 Pirelli summer tires are standard on the package, too, as is MagneRide damping. Ride height is lowered by 0.1 inches, to 5.1 inches.

Inside, there are Ford Performance front seats, covered in Performance Gray ActiveX fabric with metallic stitching and Miko perforated reflective inserts. A special aluminum appliqué has been added to the instrument panel, too, and there’ll be Performance Edition GT badging. Ford will offer the same array of exterior Mustang colors on the more potent version.

The downside is a cut in range. Ford is targeting 250 miles from the Mustang Mach-E GT’s 88 kWh battery – official EPA range figures won’t be available until closer to the crossover’s release next year, though the US agency did confirm other 2021 Mustang Mach-E range numbers recently – but the GT Performance Edition is expected to dip to 235 miles.

Obviously just how far you can go on a charge will depend on how you drive it, and it’s likely that those eager for the most powerful of the Mustang Mach-E family won’t so much mind the compromise. As with most of the rest of the variants, the GT Performance Edition will support up to 150 kW DC fast charging. You’ll also be able to add the Ford Drive Assist system, when it’s enabled by the automaker, for hands-free driving on the highway.

Reservations for the Mustang Mach-E GT are already open, with the car expected to begin deliveries late in summer 2021. Those who have already reserved the GT will have the option to add the Performance Edition package when they convert their reservation to a full order; that process is expected to start in the spring of next year. Pricing for the package will be confirmed closer to that point.

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2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series starts at $325,000

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We talked about the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series a couple of weeks ago, and we previously said base prices would probably start at around $389,000. As it turns out, the newest and most potent AMG production vehicle will cost less than that.

In its recent press release, Mercedes-AMG has officially announced pricing for its 2021 GT Black Series. It starts at $325,000 (excluding $1,050 destination charges) and will arrive at U.S. dealerships in early 2021. It’s a lot of money for a track-focused GT sports car, but you’re getting a lot of motor (and speed) in return.

Last month, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series became the fastest production vehicle to lap the treacherous Nürburgring Nordschleife. It did it in 6:43.616 on the shorter 12.8-mile rack while completing the entire 12.944-mile route in 6:48.047.

The newest Black Series toppled the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ to claim the crown, not an easy feat given the Lambo had a time of 6:44.97 on the shorter section of the racetrack, and Mercedes-AMG did it in less than ideal driving conditions.

The video says it all. For a starting price of $325,000, you get a hardcore, V8-powered monster GT with the track-conquering fundamentals of a supercar. The GT Black Series has a handcrafted V8 engine developing 720 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. The engine sends power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch AMG-SPEEDSHIFT gearbox.

And with peak torque readily accessible from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm, it accelerates to 60 mph in only 3.1-seconds and breaks the 124-mph barrier in under nine seconds. The top speed is at 202 mph, little wonder why it’s the fastest production car to go around the Nürburgring.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series is the result of critical learning obtained from the brand’s GT3 and GT4 racing cars. It has a larger cooling air intake from the AMG GT race car, and the new carbon-fiber hood with large air vents offer better cooling and more downforce. Meanwhile, the rear axle’s upper and lower wishbones have bearings that resist play to ensure stable handling under higher loads.

Even though the newest GT Black Series is a serious performance contender, the interior has not shed its grand-touring roots. It has AMG performance seats, a microfiber AMG steering wheel, premium Nappa leather and DINAMICA microfiber upholstery, and matte black carbon fiber trim. Also standard is a 12.3-inch instrument display and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen display.

Other performance-related features include a two-piece carbon-fiber rear spoiler (finished in matte black), 19-inch front and 20-inch forged wheels, a carbon-fiber front splitter, and adjustable AMG coilover suspension.

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