Comcast is adding another service to its quiver as the cable giant aims to appeal to cord-cutters and remain competitive with emerging online services. On Sunday, Comcast announced Stream, a $15 monthly add-on for Xfinity Internet subscribers that gives them access to live and on-demand TV online. Stream offers a limited number of live TV broadcasts from “about a dozen networks” including ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, Univision, HBO and HBO's various multiplex channels such as HBO2, HBO3 and so on. Depending on location some other local channels may also be available.
Stream is currently available as a free beta in Boston and will officially launch by the end of summer there, followed by Chicago and Seattle. The company plans to offer Stream to all Comcast customers by early 2016.
Twelve or so live channels is decidedly less than the more than 70 live streaming broadcasts available to Comcast’s television subscribers. Nevertheless, it’s still a good amount of television and by offering the major broadcast networks Stream could be a better deal for many viewers than upstart Sling TV.
Stream is a little more restrictive than Sling, however. Subscribers will only be able to view live TV content in their home as that service is tied to Comcast's physical cable network and not an online account, a Comcast spokesperson told PCWorld.
But you won’t be totally at a loss for content when you’re out and about. Stream also gives you the rights to use Comcast’s TV Everywhere service via the Xfinity TV app for on-demand viewing and access to Comcast’s cloud DVR service.
The impact on you at home: In recent months, Comcast has been rolling out a variety of programs and features for the streaming revolution. In August 2014, Comcast announced Xfinity on Campus, a live and on-demand streaming service for college students. A few months later, in October, the company rolled out its stream-anywhere cloud DVR. More recently, Comcast expanded its live and on-demand streaming selection for regular TV subscribers.
Good, but not too good
In many ways Stream feels like it’s striking a delicate balance. The service will likely be good enough to prove competitive to Sling in terms of content—yet it doesn’t have enough channels to convince hordes of TV subscribers to give up their fat cable packages.
Instead, Stream is an appeal to Comcast’s current Internet-only subscribers who might be looking to add a little TV back into their lives at a cheap price.
There's also more to come. Comcast tell us that future plans for Stream include the ability to add different premium channels from genres such as sports, kids, movies, and lifestyle. There's also an AirPlay-like feature in the works to enjoy Stream on your TV at home.
That's the future, however. For now, it's $15 per month for a compact selection of channels.
UPDATE: This article was updated on Monday, July 13 at 11:00AM Pacific with additional information from Comcast.