Comcast Offers HBO Without Other Cable Channels in Bundle Aimed at Cord-Cutters and Cord-Nevers

game of thrones

MSO’s Internet Plus broadband package includes premium channel, broadcast TV and Streampix VOD

Comcast is pitching a new low-cost, broadband-plus-TV bundle designed for consumers who have shunned or canceled traditional cable TV, using HBO as a key enticement for those who don’t want to pay for a full package with other cable channels like ESPN, Fox News or TNT.

The nation’s No. 1 cable operator confirmed that it has launched a trial offer of “Internet Plus,” which includes broadcast TV, video-on-demand, HBO (and HBO Go) and 20- or 25-Mbps broadband. Subscribers also get access to Xfinity Streampix, Comcast’s Netflix-style multiscreen VOD service with several thousand TV shows and movies.

The bundle is priced at $39.99 or $49.99 per month for 12 months (depending on market), which is $15 less than the starting price for bundles with Comcast’s expanded basic cable lineups. The price goes up to $69.95 monthly after the first year. The limited-time offer is being promoted across Comcast’s footprint to new residential customers, but may not be available in certain areas.

Under FCC rules, pay TV providers are required to offer premium services like HBO on a standalone basis in conjunction with broadcast basic. What’s notable about Comcast’s Internet Plus promo is that it leads with broadband as the primary service and touts any-screen access to TV shows — a pitch intended to persuade customers inclined to take broadband-only service a reason to buy a TV package (albeit a smaller one).

The MSO’s pricing for Internet Plus also is much lower than what it would cost for a similar package of services from other providers. For example, Time Warner Cable offers broadcast basic, HBO and 30-Mbps broadband for a promotional rate of $79.99 monthly.

Comcast insiders insist the marketing offer, which expires next Jan. 31 in some markets and July 31 in others, is just a trial and doesn’t presage a move toward pure a la carte. Indeed, part of the strategy is aimed at upgrading subscribers to cable TV tiers down the line.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said at an investment conference last month that the company was open to the idea of packaging HBO with a broadband offering from cable and telco operators — as long as they also offer pay TV to consumers.

Comcast’s Internet Plus service is not a broadband-only streaming video play: Subs must have a Comcast set-top. Meanwhile, the MSO is prohibited under federal regulations from offering cable channels like HBO without also including broadcast nets, referred to as the “B1” tier in industry parlance.

SEE ALSO: HBO Upgrading HBO Go for a Future It’s Not Ready to Embrace

Comcast had 21.8 million video subscribers as of the end of June, down 342,000 from the year prior.

HBO execs, for their part, have repeatedly disavowed plans to offer HBO Go as a direct-to-consumer service, stressing the go-to-market benefits of pay TV distribution.

In a statement, the premium cabler said the offer “recognizes the popularity of HBO’s programming and brand. For those consumers that prefer this type of package, we are thrilled HBO is being made available to them in this way.”

At the same time, Netflix is in talks with Comcast and other other cable operators including Time Warner Cable and Cox about potential distribution deals that would include access to Netflix’s service through cable set-tops. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said on the company’s earnings call Monday that he was “hopeful” it could reach pacts with Comcast and others.

Comcast’s launch of the broadband-plus-HBO promotion was reported Thursday by

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  1. Ranjit says:

    $ 50 is still higher side. instead to offering Only HBO if you offer Channel on Demand( CoD) and mixed with Video on deemed(VoD)- it would be more realistic offer for subscriber.

  2. allykat7825 says:

    In the end, it is the simplest that will own market share. When variety, flexibility, and convenience can be selected from a simple menu and downloaded, used and even changed monthly, it will own market share. And it will come, and that right soon.

  3. rplevy says:

    Yet what we actually want is a broadband ISP package not bundled with TV.

  4. comcast blows says:

    Comcast sucks. They could offer me free cable/internet for life and they would barely scratch the surface making it up to me for the lousy service I barely received but paid dearly for…

  5. air says:

    39.99, actually comes out to $79.99+ as usual.

  6. roy says:

    Give me a break! $50 dollars is still too much. Offer us the opportunity to purchase individual channels at say a cost of $5 a month, then ill consider. I only want a few channels like HBO, Turner Classics, and ScyFy. I’d pay for indvidual channels if it ever happens. Cable companys have been ripping us off for years, I cancelled mine a long time ago and havent looked back. Netflix is fine for watching most TV shows.

  7. Tony Perry says:

    Bittorrent works just fine to get the latest HBO shows (before they air on the west coast, even), and doesnt cost a dime.

    Having said that, I’d gladly pay a monthly fee to use the HBOGO service to access all that programming without having to pay craptacular comcast on top of it.

    • Plan says:

      The problem with torrents is that it deprives HBO of the revenue it deserves and needs to keep making shows like Game of Thrones, which costs $70 million per 10 episode season, and Boardwalk Empire, which has production costs of about $65 million a season. HBO is not a charity, and if you want something more substantial than awful reality TV shows (which are dirt cheap to produce and very profitable), then you have to pay for it.

      I don’t want to see HBO shut down original programming because so many cheapskates are pirating their content that it’s no longer profitable.

  8. FrankM says:

    “Meanwhile, the MSO is prohibited under federal regulations from offering cable channels like HBO without also including broadcast nets, referred to as “B1″ in industry parlance.”

    While technically true, it leaves out some facts. The regulation actually states that buying premium services like HBO should not require additional tiers of service, with the exception of the basic tier. The reason for this was because cable companies could not scramble the lowest tier of service, due to the marketing of “cable ready” TVs. The FCC put that rule into place so that customers could not just sign up for HBO, and then get the basic, unscrambled tier for free.

    Since then, cable companies have petitioned and won the right to scramble that basic tier, but the FCC did not roll back this related rule as well, because that’s not what they were bribed—er, lobbied — to do.

    If Comcast really wants to target “cord cutters”, they should be petitioning the FCC to allow HBO to be sold with out the basic tier that they are now allowed to scramble. Cord cutters already know what they can get for FREE with an antenna, how are you enticing them to get a service that includes paying for something they already get for free?

  9. Cut TheCable says:

    Thanks but no thanks! Let HBO be a stand alone App on iOS with a $8/mo subscription!

    • BigBotz says:

      Who the heck wants to watch HBO on their Phone? I have a Galaxy Note 2 and its way bigger than an iphone and have a few 10in tablets and would not ever watch HBO shows on any of them when I have a 73in TV to watch it on. the only thing I or anyone I know watch on phones or tablets are quick clips and youtube stuff because who wants to be hunched over for an hour watching the small screens of tablets and phones. People are taking this watching stuff on phones and tablets too seriously, everyone will need neck surgery by the age of 50. CRAZY!

  10. Ice-T says:

    Great news! It’s not so much the HBO, it’s the broadband internet plan that includes TV and streaming content.

    Now, if only the cable companies would drop the bait-and-switch tactic of the “special offer” price for one year, then they jack it up. That’s just b.s.

  11. Is it a real answer to Netflix or revamped streampix ++

  12. Comcast is one of the best cable TV, high speed internet and phone providers in the industry. You can get great Comcast deals at Basic Cable Offers as well.

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