Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is planning to launch a $15-a-month OTT pay-TV service that blends streaming of the major broadcast networks and HBO, as well as access to the MSO's cloud DVR service and thousands of on-demand programs. However, the offering contains no major cable networks.
Comcast said the new service, Stream, will launch in Boston at the end of the summer, followed by deployments in Chicago and Seattle. Ubiquitous availability across Comcast's footprint will occur in 2016, the company said--meaning it won't be a nationally distributed service. It will only be available to Xfinity Internet customers.
Matt Strauss, executive VP and GM of video services for Comcast Cable, said in a company blog post that Stream will be available for mobile devices and laptops, but he didn't specify platforms. The New York Times reported that the service will not be directly available on TVs.
Comcast's Stream follows the launch of Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) Sling TV in early February. Stream differs from Sling in that the latter includes access to not only HBO, but also major cable networks including ESPN, TNT, TBS, AMC, History Channel and A&E. Sling, however, does not include streaming access to the broadcast networks. The $20-a-month Sling also has limited--but rapidly growing--access to on-demand content.
Which service has the advantage early on? As the interest around Aereo proved, there is definitely consumer demand for a service that can deliver broadcast networks on smart phones and tablets. But Dish is delivering cable channels that cannot be cheaply access with over-the-air antennas. The approaches are almost apples and oranges at this point.
In his blog post, Strauss credited Comcast's OTT service targeted to select college campuses--Xfinity on Campus--as being crucial to the development of Stream. He also added that Stream customers don't need any new equipment or a technician to receive the service. "Getting started is easy and doesn't even require a phone call or a visit from a technician," Strauss wrote. "Xfinity Internet customers can just sign-up online, download our Xfinity TV app and start watching. It's that simple."
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