First came skinny bundles and college service Xfinity on Campus. Then came streaming cable service Stream TV, which requires no additional equipment, no set-top, not even a TV.
Comcast announced its Stream TV service in 2015, but the company started looking into delivering video over IP and building a cloud-based infrastructure in 2012, according to Michael Gatzke, VP of video subscription services at Comcast Cable. The platform aimed to allow Comcast to deliver a mobile-first TV viewing experience for customers, among other things.
“We recognized that there’s a growing number of mobile-first customers,” says Gatzke. With the technology ready and consumer demand on the rise, Stream was born. The $15 per month streaming service offers live TV and premium cable content across platforms. Available channels vary by region, but all lineups include HBO and local broadcast channels, including ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, PBS, Univision and Telemundo. In addition, as part of customers’ Stream TV cable subscription, they can also watch TV Everywhere programming over any Internet or mobile connection using the Xfinity TV app or portal, or programmer apps like HBO Go. The service is delivered over Comcast’s cable system, not over the Internet. That means Stream TV data usage won’t be counted towards subs’ Xfinity Internet monthly data allowance. And that’s been a sore point with some consumer groups, who claim it could hurt other online video options. Comcast has said it’s not an issue because the service does not go over the Internet. So far, consumers seem to be quite curious about the service.
“The vast majority of interest in the product is from our own Internet subscribers…It was designed for them,” Gatzke says. That said, non-Xfinity subscribers will be able to use the service as long as they have a certified cable modem provisioned by Comcast (it doesn’t have to be a Comcast modem). The company has already started the process to enable non-customers to access Stream TV.
The feedback so far suggests that customers want Stream TV to be available on more devices, with even more programming options. “We are working on that,” Gatzke says, noting heavy viewing of sports—especially football programming—among Stream TV customers. “There’s a lot of live viewing” mixed with some VOD viewing and light DVR usage, he says. PC is the most popular viewing platform so far. The company is also looking to add more premium channels and bring any of the standalone premium channels Comcast carries to Stream TV.
In addition, Comcast plans to offer more packages of channels, which might include a basic bundle and expanded tiers. The strategy is to keep the bundle as skinny as possible while providing more options and maximizing viewing flexibility so it’s easy to add or remove programming services. The offering is now only available in Chicago and Boston, but Comcast plans to roll it out across the MSO’s footprint by the end of the year.