Taking aim at millennials and other consumer groups that aren’t gravitating to traditional pay TV service bundles, Comcast is preparing to launch “Stream,” a $15 per month no-contract video service that will feature major broadcast networks and HBO, and be bundled with the MSO’s high-speed Internet service.
Stream will offer about a dozen networks (including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, Fox, The CW, Telemundo, Univision and HBO) in the customer’s home via Web browsers, tablets and phones (Stream isn't providing native support for TV-connected platforms such as Roku boxes, the Apple TV and gaming consoles, at least not in the early going), thousands of VOD movies and TV shows that can be viewed in or out of the home, access to certain TV Everywhere apps and the MSO’s new cloud DVR service (with more than 20 hours of storage, according to this Web page that lets consumers register to receive alerts when Stream becomes available in their specific markets ).
Although Stream will require that the customer subscribe to a high-speed Internet service from Comcast, the in-home Stream video service is not being delivered “over-the-top” via public Internet connections, but instead over Comcast’s managed IP network. That’s along the lines of how Comcast delivers its in-home Xfinity TV app for browsers and mobile devices for subs who are on Comcast’s X1 platform, as well as Comcast’s recently launched Xfinity on Campus service for college and university partners.
Comcast is launching Stream amid competition from Sling TV, an OTT pay-TV service for cord-cutters that starts at $20 per month and focuses on cable networks rather than broadcast channels, and a wave of standalone streaming services that have launched or will soon from programmers and networks such as HBO, Showtime, CBS and Lifetime. Cablevision Systems, meanwhile, has launched new cord-cutter packages that tie together high-speed Internet with digital antennas that can capture free, over-the-air TV programming.
“Clearly, there are changes that are happening in the market,” Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s executive vice president and general manager of video services,” told The New York Times. “Not everybody is going to want a full pay-TV bundle.”
Comcast lost about 8,000 video subs in the first quarter of 2015, ending the period with 22.37 million. It's scheduled to report second quarter results on Thursday, July 23.
Comcast, which will offer Stream only to consumers in its traditional cable footprint at launch, noted that customers won’t need to place a phone call or need a visit from a technician to get Stream, as they will be able to get the service by signing up online and downloading and installing the Xfinity TV app. Customers will be able to cancel the new contract-free Stream service at any time.
“We want to make ordering Stream as easy as buying a song online. And make tuning in to a show as simple as opening an email,” Strauss explained in this blog post about the new service.
Comcast, he explained, will launch Stream first in Boston by the end of the summer, follow with debuts in Chicago and Seattle, and has set plans to expand it to the rest of the MSO’s footprint by “early 2016.”
According to The New York Times, Stream will feature content from Streampix, Comcast’s Netflix-like multiscreen premium on-demand service. Comcast decommissioned Streampix’s separate mobile apps and the Streampix Web site last year, but said at the time that it would continue to sell Streampix on an a la carte option, or given away as a perk, to customers who take certain bundled service packages.
“As this diversity in preferences continues to grow, we’ve added new features and offerings to try and meet the needs of everyone who loves TV,” Strauss wrote. “We’ve created skinny bundles like Internet Plus and developed services that cater to students, like Xfinity on Campus. And today, we’re announcing a beta test of a new streaming cable service that furthers our goal to provide TV choices for everyone. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever offered: no extra device or additional equipment required…or even a TV. And it’s called Stream.”
Comcast, he added, will “continue to experiment by creating offerings like Stream, so that users can choose the service that works best for them.”
Strauss told the paper that Comcast could eventually add optional kids, sports, lifestyle and movie packages to the service for an additional $5 to $10 per month.