Comcast is kicking off its counter-attack against cord cutting with a new service called Stream TV.
Stream TV is currently available for Comcast Internet subscribers in select areas of Massachusetts (including Boston), New Hampshire, Maine, and the greater Chicago area, though Comcast plans to offer the service in all of its markets next year. For $15 per month plus tax, subscribers get HBO and live broadcast channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, all streaming though Comcast’s mobile apps and website. Some on-demand programs and cloud DVR features are included as well.
There are a couple of catches: Some programming isn’t available outside the home, and users can’t stream to more than two devices at once. Also, users’ options for watching on a television are limited, as Comcast doesn’t offer its Xfinity video app on streaming boxes like Roku and Apple TV. You can, however, use individual streaming apps such as HBO Go, NBC, FoxNow, and WatchABC on some set-top boxes.
Why this matters: As I’ve written before, Stream TV is surprisingly not a terrible deal. For about the same price as HBO’s streaming service, subscribers get access to HBO plus a bunch of broadcast channels. Best of all, there’s no clunky and expensive cable box required. With cable TV subscriber numbers falling, it seems Comcast is actually interested in offering something competitive.
Is Stream TV a deal?
When Comcast first announced Stream TV, some observers claimed that it wouldn’t save people any money due to the savings that come from bundling Internet and television. But in Boston, at least, this argument is demonstrably false.
A visit to Comcast’s Boston website shows a price of $77 per month for 75 Mbps Internet alone, compared to $90 per month for Internet, TV, and phone. At a glance, it seems you’d pay more for Internet and Stream TV together, with a total price of $92 per month.
As always, the fine print tells a different story. Once you factor in broadcast TV fees ($3.75 per month), regional sports fees ($2 per month), and HD set-top box rental fees ($10 per month), the actual price of Comcast’s triple play bundle is $105.75 per month. Adding HBO brings the price to $110.75 per month. Sticking with Internet and Stream TV would save you $18.75 per month, or $225 per year.
And that’s just for the first two years. After that, Comcast jacks up the price of its triple play bundle by $52 or more, bringing the total monthly cost of Internet and TV to $162.75. Of course, you’re not getting nearly as many channels with Stream TV, but that’s the point. Not everyone needs a giant bundle to stay entertained, especially with additional streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Of course, Comcast Stream TV isn’t the only option. You can also get high-definition broadcast channels for free with an antenna, or get a streaming package of cable channels from Sling TV for $20 per month . But if all you want is HBO and a few basic streaming options to go with it, Stream TV might actually make sense.