Even Comcast, the biggest cable company in the country, is starting to acknowledge a key reality: It’s 2017, and consumers, especially younger adults, don’t want to pay for cable television anymore. To that end, the rumor mill now says, Comcast is going to join the competition and launch a $15 streaming service — but you’ll have to have their internet service, first.
Reuters reports today that the largely forgotten and forgettable Comcast Stream service is due for a refresh, rebrand, and expansion later this year into the new Xfinity Instant TV.
Xfinity’s Instant TV is not unlike offerings we’re now used to seeing from the likes of AT&T (DirecTV Now), Dish (Sling), and Sony (PlayStation Vue), according to Reuters. It will include the major broadcast networks, with optional add-on packages for sports or Spanish-language programming, and bundles will run $15 to $40 per month.
Here’s the catch, though: While AT&T, Dish, and Sony want to make their offerings available to everyone in the country, no matter who their internet provider is, Comcast wants to keep playing closer to home. The service, which is expected to launch in the third quarter of the year, will be restricted to the existing Comcast footprint.
That makes for some scattershot coverage. Customers from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, and again in Boston and New England, will be able to access Xfinity Instant TV, but not New Yorkers. Over on the West Coast, Comcast country is concentrated around San Francisco and northern California, but not Los Angeles.
Sources tell Reuters that basically the idea is to keep selling bundles, but to acknowledge that a growing segment of consumers doesn’t want those bundles to include traditional cable. The hope is that eventually, customers who like Comcast’s streaming TV offering can be convinced to upgrade to the standard X1 pay-TV platform.
Comcast may also be laying the groundwork to offer this — or some other — streaming service on a nationwide basis. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Comcast has been adding “most favored nation” clauses to its deals with broadcasters. These agreements would give Comcast the ability to offer channels outside of its existing footprint. That doesn’t mean the company will sell something that competes directly with DirecTV Now or Sling, but it would have the option to do so if it wants.