Comcast isn’t worried about customers cutting the cord. In fact, it apparently wants to help them do so—or so the launch of the company’s new internet TV streaming service seems to suggest.
Aptly named Stream, the $15 a month streaming service will be available to Comcast Xfinity subscribers. The additional monthly fee on top of the cost of Internet will net those who pony up for Stream access to HBO, plus ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS. For the time being, HBO is the lone cable network on the lineup.
While Stream will give users the ability to watch shows from the supported networks on any device—computer, tablet, smartphone—it comes with a restriction: It only works when connected to your home Wi-Fi. If you aren’t on the Comcast Xfinity Internet you pay for, then you can’t use Stream.
Comcast is targeting a generation of cord cutters with its product, which makes the decision to tether them to their homes in order to actually watch the content seem counterintuitive. The company also provides no option for streaming content on a television set, limiting the ability to watch to only smaller displays.
The constraints placed on Stream by Comcast seem to beg the question: Why even bother? Unlike the business of providing cable TV and internet (from which Comcast sucks in most its money) where competition is sparse, features can be minimal, and prices exorbitant because the customer has no other option, streaming video is a heavily populated and competitive field.
On Stream, $15 gets you HBO and the broadcast networks. Naturally, alternatives abound. A one-time fee of about $25 for a high-definition antenna provides access to those same broadcast channels and standalone HBO Now is priced at $14.99. Sling TV covers a wide array of cable networks—including ESPN and AMC—for $20; Hulu Plus covers most broadcast channels, some cable networks, old shows, and movies for $7.99.
Making the case for Comcast Stream in that environment is difficult.
Matthew Strauss, Comcast Cable’s executive vice president and general manager of video services, told the New York Times, “We’re becoming much, much, much more surgical in how we target products.”
“Existing Comcast customers who want to access HBO and broadcast network channels only while in their house” is certainly a market that requires precision to target, it’s just not clear why it’s worth targeting.