After finally deploying its skinny streaming video bundle in Boston last week, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has launched its $15-a-month "Stream TV" service in the Chicago area.
"We recognize that there's another audience that we might not be catering to, and that audience is an Internet-only customer whose primary consumption pattern tends to fall on mobile devices," said Comcast spokeswoman Lisa Scalzo to the Chicago Tribune.
According to a Comcast FAQ, Stream TV is also available in parts of Indiana and Michigan, with the company identifying the Seattle region as the next stop.
Importantly, Comcast confirmed to Ars Technica that the data generated by its Stream TV service would not count against the data caps that the company is testing in a growing number of markets across the country. "Stream TV is a cable streaming service delivered over Comcast's cable system, not over the Internet. Therefore, Stream TV data usage will not be counted towards your Xfinity Internet monthly data usage," Comcast said on its website, Ars Technica noted.
It's unclear whether Comcast's move to zero-rate its Stream TV traffic will draw the ire of the FCC, which instituted new net neutrality guidelines partly to prohibit ISPs from prioritizing their own services. So far the FCC hasn't acted against other zero-rating offerings, like T-Mobile's move to offer wireless music and video streams outside of customers' monthly data allotments.
Comcast's Stream TV allows Xfinity high-speed Internet users access to all the major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS and Univision, as well as HBO, HBO Comedy and HBO Family.
Users can play what Comcast said are thousands of VOD titles. They also have access to Comcast's cloud DVR service, which affords them 100 GB of storage -- about enough to record 20 hours of HD programming.
Two users can access the service simultaneously with a single Stream TV account.
Comcast said it's charging customers $10 a month, on top of a $3.25 "broadcast fee" and up to $1.75 for taxes and fees.
The Xfinity Stream TV app runs on iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as personal computers. But access to programming via OTT devices in the living room is more spotty, since there's no dedicated Xfinity Stream TV app yet for most of these boxes. For example, if you're an Amazon Fire TV user, you can access HBO via the HBO Go TV Everywhere app. You can also see ABC via WatchABC. But you won't have access to NBC or FoxNow.
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