Comcast is hoping to bring “cord nevers” into the pay-TV fold with Xfinity Instant TV: The stripped-down bundle of broadband-delivered channels, which starts at $18 per month for a tier of local broadcast networks, is now available in select areas.
A Comcast rep declined to disclose where the Xfinity Instant TV beta is currently available but said the cable operator expects to have it rolled out across its national footprint within the next two weeks.
It’s the cable giant’s response to the flood of “virtual” pay-TV services in the market, aimed at consumers loath to buy into a traditional fat package of television channels. One of Comcast’s selling points for Instant TV: Customers don’t need a set-top box, and they can sign up, add or remove programming bundles, or cancel their service at any time — without a contract or incurring cancellation fees. It’s also offering a 30-day free trial to new subscribers during the beta period.
For now, Comcast is offering Xfinity Instant TV only to current broadband customers, and they can only watch the full live channel lineup over their home Wi-Fi connection. Ultimately, Comcast is banking on a portion of the broadband-only households it’s targeting will simply decide to upgrade to full-fledged Xfinity X1 service — with the operator viewing Instant TV as a kind of on-ramp for its video biz.
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The $18 core package may appeal to the cost-conscious — but it’s limited to broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and PBS as well as public, educational and government channels, and just a few cable channels like C-SPAN, QVC and HSN. Also, Univision and Telemundo are included in most markets.
To get ESPN, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or CNBC, you’ll have to pay an additional $30 per month for the “sports and news” add-on pack. The $15 monthly “entertainment” pack includes A&E, AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, TBS, TNT and USA, while the $10 “kids and family” option includes Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon and TLC.
HBO or Starz are available, but you’ll have to pay $15 and $12 extra, respectively, for the premium channels.
Comcast has actually been testing the internet-only service in Boston and Chicago for two years — and in those trials, HBO was included as part of the base package for just $15 per month. The prior iteration of the service was called “Xfinity Stream TV,” but Comcast changed the name because it was confusingly similar to Xfinity Stream, the name of its video-streaming app. Separately, 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), which it first launched in 2013.
Xfinity Instant TV is available on the web and through Xfinity Stream apps for Roku players and iOS and Android devices. Comcast says it’s working on support for Xfinity Stream for additional smart TV platforms and other streaming devices. Instant TV includes network-based DVR, with storage to record up to 20 hours of HD; as with Comcast’s regular Xfinity TV service, users can also download the DVR recordings to watch them on the go.
Other details: Xfinity Instant TV initially won’t let users rent or purchase VOD titles or subscribe to pay-per-view events. However, they’ll be able to access Xfinity On Demand shows and movies from networks included in their TV package. Instant TV provides two simultaneous streams per account, so that will let them record up to two shows at once or record one show and watch another.
Here’s the full lineup of option channel packages available through Xfinity Instant TV:
- Sports and News ($30 per month): CNBC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Sports 1, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports, NFL Network and regional sports networks based on market.
- Entertainment ($15 per month): A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, E!, Food Network, FX, FXX, Hallmark Channel, History, HGTV, Lifetime, OWN, Syfy, TBS, TNT, TV One, USA, VH1.
- Kids and Family ($10 per month): Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, MTV, National Geographic Channel, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, NickToons, Universal Kids, TeenNick, TLC.
- Latino ($5 per month): BabyFirst, CNN en Español,Cine Dinamita, Cine Latino, Cine Mexicano, Cine Sony Television, Discovery Familia, Discovery en Español, Galavisión, History en Español, Pasiones, Viendo Movies, Vme Kids.
- Deportes ($7 per month): beIN, beINñ, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, LAS, NBCUniverso, Univision tDN. (Telemundo, Unimas and Univision are provided when not included in the broadcast tier)
Comcast is providing more info on availability at xfinity.com/instant-tv as the service is more widely deployed.