CenturyLink has launched its anticipated virtual MVPD service in beta. Per the live-streamed service’s product page, the base tier will run $45 a month and include almost 50 networks, including four iterations of ESPN, History Channel, Food Network, Viceland and HGTV. The page lists NBC and ABC as available networks, but it’s unclear how infiltrated CenturyLink is in terms of local network affiliates.
The Fox Broadcast Network and CBS don’t appear to be part of the initial mix. Neither do their associated cable networks. Viacom, Time Warner Inc. and AMC Networks channels also seem to be left out of the base tier.
Additional sports channels like Outside Television and beIN Sports can be added with a $10-a-month “Sports Extra” package. Add-ons of smaller networks are also available for entertainment, Latino-targeted entertainment and cable news, among other programming themes.
The skinny bundle is discounted $5 for CenturyLink broadband subscribers. Features include a cloud DVR that can store up to 50 hours of HD programming.
News of the CenturyLink beta comes as Charter confirmed testing of an IP-based skinny bundle. While Spectrum Stream is an IP-based video service delivered within Charter’s footprint over managed network, CenturyLink Stream is a full-fledged, nationally distributed virtual MVPD service, competing head-on with Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Sony PlayStation Vue and FuboTV.
Initially, CenturyLink Stream is supported on Roku OTT devices, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. It’s also playable on the CenturyLink player, a $90 Android-powered device manufactured by LG Electronics.
CenturyLink executives have indicated previously that the introduction of Stream doesn’t bode well for the telco's existing IPTV video product, Prism.
“With over-the-top product, we don’t have to make a truck roll,” said CenturyLink CEO Glenn Post at an investor event in February. “We have much wider availability due to lower bandwidth requirements of over-the-top. We have network-based storage for DVR. We’ll have local channels to help distinguish that product. And our trial is getting really strong reviews right now. But we have really deemphasized the Prism product because of the margin issue.”