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Comcast Plans to Launch Low-Cost Broadband Skinny TV Bundles Across U.S. Footprint in Q3

Comcast, looking to build another TV on-ramp for subscribers, is rebranding its broadband-delivered “skinny bundle” service as Xfinity Instant TV and plans to roll out the service across its U.S. footprint in the third quarter of 2017, sources confirmed to Variety.

The cable giant’s Xfinity Instant TV, as first reported by Reuters, will be the new name of Xfinity Stream, the stripped-down TV package that Comcast originally launched in 2015 and has been testing in its greater Boston and Chicago service areas. The service will be accessible across multiple internet-connected devices and include a cloud-based DVR.

Xfinity Instant TV service will start at $15 per month (which is what Xfinity Stream has cost) for a package that will include broadcast networks as well as HBO or possibly another premium channel, sources said. In addition, Comcast will sell bigger bundles for Xfinity Instant TV that include cable networks like ESPN priced at up to $40 per month, and is looking to offer optional genre-channels packs for news, sports or children’s entertainment programming.

But the service isn’t an over-the-top play like Dish’s Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or the forthcoming virtual pay-TV services from Hulu and YouTube. Rather, Xfinity Instant TV will be available only to Comcast’s broadband subscribers in metro areas including Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. The difference is that with Xfinity Instant TV customers won’t need to use a Comcast-supplied set-top; note that the operator recently launched a beta test of its TV app for Roku. Comcast also sells Internet Plus, a double-play bundle of high-speed internet service coupled with broadcast TV and HBO (delivered via a conventional set-top).

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For Comcast, the expanded launch of the broadband streaming TV service is aimed at making it easier — and less expensive — for consumers to buy pay-TV, and it gives the cable company a product to compete with cheap OTT alternatives. Another big part of the strategy is that Comcast hopes the skinny bundles become stepping-stones for subscribers to upgrade to full-blown pay TV.

Meanwhile, Comcast has been acquiring national streaming rights to some networks, as Bloomberg reported last week. That technically allows the operator to offer internet-streamed TV outside its traditional footprint. But Comcast execs have repeatedly said they have no plans to launch an over-the-top video service outside its current service areas. A source familiar with the operator said Comcast picked up those rights under the “most-favored nation” clauses in programming deals, which extend the same terms and conditions that have been granted to competing distributors.

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