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Xfinity Name Get Early Thumbs Down: Survey

To Xfinity and beyond! Oh wait, no, that was "Toy Story" and it was to "infinity," not Xfinity. So just what the heck is Xfinity?

Consumers aren't sure either, according to a survey by brand naming company Strategic Name Development.

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) announced earlier this week that it plans to rebrand its services as Xfinity while keeping Comcast as the corporate name. Comcast's cable TV, phone service and Internet Service are being rebranded as Xfinity TV, Xfinity Voice and Xfinity Internet, respectively. The name change starts with a regional rollout to several major cities.

Strategic Name Development said it surveyed 511 consumers nationwide. The most revealing stat was the breakout for answers to the open-ended question:

Xfinity is a good brand name for:

The top result at 38 percent was: a gaming console. Internet/Cable service came in at 30 percent, which shows Comcast is at least in the ballpark. But "porn site" and "condoms" came in at 16 percent each which combines for a higher total than Internet/Cable.

"When you get a lot of negative comments, with the intensity and volume we saw, there's a problem," William Lozito, president and chief branding officer at Strategic Name Development, told InternetNews.com.

Lozito said his firm was motivated to do a structured survey after seeing a lot of chatter on Twitter complaining about the name. "We saw people were making a lot of negative comments and bringing up the porn site similarity, but we wanted to see if a broader group really felt that way or it was a just an echo chamber of comments that you get sometimes in Twitter."

As a naming consultant, Lozito thinks Comcast is "trying to put lipstick on a pig" by instituting a name change as a way to cover up service complaints. "As a Comcast customer, I'm frustrated by how long it takes to get tech support. They're always trying to sell you something first," he said. "If I was them, I'd get my house in order first, improve the service, then think about bringing new services to market under a new name."

In what could be an attempt to head off some of the potential negative buzz, the Web domains Xfinitysucks.com and Xfinitysucks.org have already been claimed. It's not clear if Comcast was behind the move, but the registered owner is Corporation Service Company, described as "The Trusted Partner of More than 50 percent of the 100 Best Global Brands."

Comcast could not be reached for comment by press time, but it did comment on the name change in a blog post earlier this week:

"Xfinity is the culmination of years of work to transition Comcast’s network and products to a platform that will now offer 100+ HD channels, 50 to 70 foreign-language channels, approaching 20,000+ VOD choices, incredibly fast Internet speeds (50 Mbps growing to 100+ Mbps) and thousands of TV shows and movies online for our customers to watch whenever and wherever they want," wrote David Watson, executive vice president of operations.

And how about that iPad name?

Apple's choice of iPad for its new tablet computer also has been a source of controversy. Lozito said his firm did a survey on the iPad name as well, but the complaints there were more gender-specific.

"Females had a bigger problem with iPad by a wide margin," said Lozito. "We had an open-ended question of what would you say if you could speak to Steve Jobs and the answer we heard most often from women was along the lines of 'Pads are for periods'."

Lozito thinks Apple's options were limited because it appears to be committed to using "i" as an initial letter. "In our survey, four out of five consumers preferred iSlate, but that raises even more trademark issues than the name iPad, so I suspect that's why Apple stayed away from it," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.