Comcast is beta testing a new cable Internet service that will allow subscribers to pay about $15 a month for a package of live television stations, all over their cable Internet connections.
The fledgling service, called Stream, is in beta testing in Boston and is expected to launch in that city to Comcast Xfinity Internet subscribers at the end of the summer, according to a July 12 post by Matt Strauss, executive vice president and general manager of video services for Comcast Cable, on the Comcast Voices Blog.
The Stream service works without a television or cable box, instead bringing a live video stream directly to a customer's in-home devices over the Internet via a cable modem, according to Strauss' post.
"With Stream, Xfinity Internet customers can watch live TV from about a dozen networks—including all the major broadcast nets and HBO—on laptops, tablets and phones in their home," wrote Strauss. "It includes thousands of on demand movies and shows to watch home or away and even comes with access to TV Everywhere and a cloud DVR so you can record all your favorites and watch them later."
The Boston beta tests have been going on for several weeks for no charge for customers who volunteered to participate in the beta, a Comcast spokesperson told eWEEK. The company plans to offer Stream for $15 per month. After the Boston service debut, the company plans to expand it to Chicago and Seattle, with the rest of the nation getting access by early 2016 wherever Comcast Xfinity is available. Interested customers can email Comcast to find out when Stream will be available where they live.
Customers will be able to subscribe to the service when it becomes available by signing up online and downloading an app, without the need for a visit from a Comcast technician.
"It's an exciting time to be a TV fan—there is more quality content than ever and seemingly limitless ways to keep up with all the shows and movies people are talking about," wrote Strauss. "We'll continue to experiment by creating offerings like Stream, so that users can choose the service that works best for them. So if you love TV and spend most of your time with the screen in your lap as opposed to the one on the wall, Stream may just be the thing for you."
Stream is an Internet-only service and is not connected to Comcast's cable television services, which remain separate. It's essentially a "skinny bundle" service, which means it offers prospective customers a smaller-scale channel selection for a lower price than traditional larger cable channel packages, according to the Comcast spokesperson.
Comcast is conducting the beta tests in the Boston market to allow Comcast users to try it out and give feedback about the service and to see what is working or not working, the spokesperson said.
"This is part of where the entire industry is going," with experimentation and offering more choices to customers, the spokesperson said. Future offerings could even include things like premium channel packs, sports channel packs or kid's channel packs, each as add-ons. "Our cloud-based structure is now allowing us to offer different things and cater to different customers."
Among the channels to be included in Steam are network programming from ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, Univision, HBO and local channels where a subscriber lives.
The streaming video business online is expanding rapidly as more players push their content online and seek customers to buy it. The idea of cutting the cord to cable TV offerings and replacing it with targeted streaming video options has been growing with more and more households and users across the nation.