Comcast Hits HD 'Triple’

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Comcast unveiled a handful of new HD packages at an industry conference Monday aimed at consumers affected by the sluggish economy.

At the UBS Media and Communications Conference last Monday, executive vice president of operations Dave Watson unveiled three new triple-play HD tiers.

HD Starter is priced at $114.89 per month (including 80 digital cable channels, 6 Megabit per second to 12 Mbps high-speed Internet and digital phone).

HD Plus is priced at $139.99 per month (150 digital channels, 8 Mbps to 16 Mbps high-speed Internet and digital phone).

HD Premium is priced at $179.99 per month (including HD DVR service; 200 digital channels; high-speed Internet at 16 Megabits to 22 Mb per second; premium networks HBO, Starz, Cinemax and Showtime; and a Sports Entertainment package.

The HD Starter price rises to $130 to $135 per month after the promotional period ends, the Plus package rise to $179 per month and the Premium tier increases to $200 to $210 per month, Watson said.

He said Comcast already had a lower priced digital tier and is introducing an “Economy” digital package that includes 50 channels for $29.99 per month.

The top U.S. cable company also is pairing that digital tier in a double play package with either 1 Mbps high-speed Internet or phone for $54.90 per month and a triple play with phone and 1 Mbps data for $79.85.

The HD Starter package includes more than 30 HD channels, with that number rising gradually as the number of premiums services increase.

“We’ve standardized this approach throughout the country,” Watson said. “It gives us a lot of flexibility whether it’s acquisition-oriented or it’s retention. Helping customers perhaps who call us and say, 'Times are a little tough, I need some help.’ And versus letting that customer leave a product category, we’re going to make sure we try to keep them in all of our products and these triple play offerings will help us do that.”

Media analyst Tom Eagan of Collins Stewart predicted recently Comcast’s customer-disconnect count would be higher than previously forecast (about 125,000 basic losses) in the fourth quarter, partly because Comcast offers fewer HD channels than satellite and telco competitors.

Frank N. Magid Associates has estimated 42% of all households will be engaged in some kind of HD content transaction in the next 12 months, including buying an HDTV set and signing up for HD services, creating a marketing opportunity for cable and satellite providers.

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