In a move to compete in a heated marketplace, Comcast on Monday announced a beta test of a new streaming cable service that doesn’t require any new devices or equipment -- not even a television.
Dubbed Stream, the service lets Xfinity Internet customers watch live TV from over 10 networks on laptops, tablets and phones in the comfort of their homes. For now, the content partner list includes all major broadcast networks as well as HBO.
That sets the stage for viewers to tap thousands of on-demand movies and shows to watch at home, or really anywhere. The service comes with access to TV Everywhere and a cloud DVR that lets customers record programming to watch later.
“Stream will be available to our Xfinity Internet customers for only $15 per month and will first launch in Boston at the end of the summer,” said Matt Strauss, general manager of video services for Comcast Cable. “We’ll take it to Chicago and Seattle next, with plans to make it available everywhere in our footprint by early 2016.”
Will This Drive Growth?
Will Comcast Stream help the cable television giant grow? That’s what we asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst. He told us growth in a changing industry is the challenge faced by every cable television provider, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cox.
“Comcast used to have a more solid business a decade ago when customers didn't have any alternative,” Kagan said. “However, over the last few years we have seen competitors moving into the space and winning business.”
Indeed, AT&T Uverse, Verizon FiOS and to a lesser extent CenturyLink Prism have been winning customers from cable television providers. Cable TV brands are trying to stop the bleeding but so far these new services have been eating away at traditional cable television market share with the cord-cutting or even cord-never customer base, Kagan said.
Comcast isn’t competing in the broader marketplace like Dish Network's SlingTV or even Sony’s PlayStation Vue Web TV services. Stream is only available to Comcast customers. But it could keep Comcast customers from straying to these newfangled competitors.
A Humungous Challenge
“This is the humungous challenge for Comcast -- how to grow when the market is slipping through your fingers,” Kagan said. “If this is a completely separate, standalone service it might stand a better chance of success.” On the other hand, if it is part of a larger package it may not, he added.
Kagan’s bottom line: “It depends how Stream is welcomed into the marketplace. If it is seen as a great product then this could be successful. If not, it will be a waste of time. We'll just have to wait and see how it is received.”