Comcast to offer a new streaming TV service

13 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Comcast Debuts Stream, A Cable TV-Like Streaming Service For Cord Cutters.

NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast will launch a streaming video service as it faces growing intrusions from companies like Netflix and a rising number of customers who are becoming more mobile, using tablets and phones for entertainment.Comcast has now become the latest pay TV provider to launch its own alternative to big cable TV packages with the debut of its own internet-based streaming cable service it’s simply calling Stream.

Comcast is rolling out its own version of an online-only streaming video app, on the heels of similar offerings from competitors such as Netflix and HBO.SEATTLE, Jul 13, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Starting today, Comcast X1 customers in Washington will be able to access their TV lineup on any connected screen in their home.

Comcast Corp. will offer a Web-based TV service with about a dozen channels for $15 a month to its Xfinity Internet customers, in response to challengers like Dish Network Corp. and Netflix Inc. The in-home streaming feature provides access to virtually the entire channel line-up and Xfinity On Demand programming on mobile devices and computers. The feature will be introduced in Boston at the end of the summer, followed by Chicago and Seattle, and will reach its entire service area early next year, the company said. The service, fittingly called Stream, will give Comcast internet customers access to HBO, a dozen broadcast networks,and cloud DVR storage for $15 per month.

The content is presented to customers via the familiar X1 user experience. “What this means is that any screen in the house becomes a personal TV, and recorded programs can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Comcast is the largest U.S. pay-TV provider and has the most exposure to cord cutting as viewers explore alternatives such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, as well as skinny bundle offerings like Dish’s $20 over-the-net Sling TV service. It will be available in select US cities later this year before rolling out across the country in 2016. “Clearly, there are changes that are happening in the market,” Matthew Strauss, Comcast’s head of video, told the New York Times (paywall). “Not everybody is going to want a full pay-TV bundle.” For $15, customers are essentially getting Aereo with HBO. Live in-home streaming and X1 DVR with cloud technology will give our customers more flexibility for watching their favorite shows and movies at home or while traveling,” said Kyle McSlarrow, Regional Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Washington Region. Traditional pay-TV subscriber growth fell 0.5 percent in the first quarter, Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson LLC, wrote in a note Monday. “We expect video subscriber growth in the second quarter will be similarly weak at -0.5 percent,” Moffett wrote. “But even that estimate may prove too optimistic.”

Aereo, the internet TV service that the US Supreme Court dubiously ruled was illegal last year, allowed people to watch broadcast channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox over the internet for free, and then record those broadcasts. Instead, subscribers can use their PCs, tablets, or smartphones to watch live television from “about a dozen networks,” notes Comcast in its announcement. The economics of the app appear to favor cord-cutters, offering them a slightly better deal than they’d get by purchasing individual apps and services separately. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, nearly 46 percent of all TV households watch video on a laptop, notebook or netbook, and 43 percent view videos on a smartphone. For example, the fact that Stream includes HBO (along with a slew of other programming) makes it unnecessary for Comcast customers to buy HBO’s own standalone app, HBO Now, which is also priced at $15. (However, it’s worth noting that Internet-only plans are rarely cheaper than Internet-plus-TV bundles.) If it takes off, Stream could help Comcast keep some of the revenues it loses when customers downgrade to Internet-only plans and then turn to other services for their programming.

Verizon Communications and Cablevision Systems Corp. have set up options for cord cutters, many of them younger viewers, who have grown less willing to pay for a full slate of channels and who want more mobile options for entertainment. Stream’s price point is extremely reasonable considering that customers are getting HBO—which alone costs $15 when bought on the internet—in addition to the broadcast networks and the ability to store programs in the cloud. Like Sling TV, Stream is largely focused making live television more appealing to a new generation of TV customers who prefer to watch on a variety of devices without paying for pricier cable TV subscriptions. Although cable and satellite TV providers worry about the impact of cord-cutting on their bottom lines — undercutting as it does the business model that has sustained the industry for decades — the pace of new streaming offerings has picked up dramatically in recent months. To deliver these new features to Xfinity TV customers, Comcast has launched an Xfinity TV app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and a dedicated portal for viewing on computers.

You can’t get Stream on your actual television set (where most people would want to watch TV) without a workaround like hooking your laptop up to the TV with an HDMI cable. Stream is also, according to Engadget, an IP-based cable service delivered over Comcast’s managed network, meaning that it’s basically just cable TV using internet pipes.

The TV Everywhere access is important to note, too, because Comcast’s own app won’t stream to television sets – customers would need to use the network apps that are currently available on their streaming media player of choice – like HBO GO’s app, for instance. Stream additionally includes a cloud DVR service, allowing customers to record and save favorite shows much as they do with cable – another advantage over Sling TV today. We’re still quite a ways from true a la carte television, in which consumers can pay for the exact individual channels that they want on a case-by-case basis—but we’re inching toward it. Comcast Cable is the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses.

Meanwhile, though Sling TV doesn’t provide access to broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS) as Stream does, most cord-cutters know they can get these for free over-the-air using a digital antenna. Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds, and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. Instead of offering internet TV completely, some companies now offer trimmed down cable TV bundles that they think might appeal to people who are considering cutting the cord.

And if it’s important to them to have a DVR experience, there are DVRs that can record these over-the-air streams for playback on your TV or on other devices, like TiVo’s Roamio OTA DVR or Tablo. If nothing else, Stream appears to be an honest effort on the part of Comcast to provide a service to its US subscribers that they might actually use, caveats notwithstanding. In the long-run, the problem with services like Stream and Sling TV is that they misunderstand the relationship cord cutters and “cord nevers” have with TV today. Thanks to Netflix and other on-demand streaming services, viewers no longer regularly “tune in” to watch appointment television, but rather watch on their own time, on-demand, and on all their devices.

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