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Comcast Unveils ‘Flex,’ a Streaming Service for Internet Customers

Comcast said it would unveil “Flex,” a hub for its Internet-only customers that allows them to stream and purchase shows and movies, the latest effort by a traditional cable provider to latch on to customers who are migrating to broadband services,

The Philadelphia cable giant will also make free, ad-supported services available via the service, which will be available to customers in the regions in which it already operates. Comcast will charge $5 a month for a subscription to the offering, and launch it on March 26. Apple is expected to launch a similar offering next week, albeit one that also features high-quality series and programming that is available only to its customers.

“Flex” is aimed at Comcast customers who don’t subscribe to the company’s cable and video services, said Matt Strauss, executive vice president, Xfinity Services for Comcast’s Comcast Cable unit. These consumers might want a place to access all of the various programs they get via different kinds of broadband products. “We believe in a sea of apps , there is an app fatigue among a certain customer,” he said during a presentation Thursday,. “It’s really about aggregating the experience, all of the different content within these apps.”

The offering shows how many of the nation’s largest suppliers of video entertainment are shifting their business to accommodate a growing legion of consumers who are no longer tethered to a TV screen and linear programming. Comcast said it gained 1.4 million high-speed Internet customers in 2018, for example, while it lost 370,000 traditional video customers. Other cable and satellite distributors have grappled with similar trends.

Subscribers will be able to gain access to apps they already subscribe to as well as more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows from such entities as ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube,the company said. Netflix. Amazon Prime Video, HBO and Showtime would be among the services customers who have subscriptions to them might access. Customers have the option to upgrade to Comcast’s live video service.

Internet-connected video has “become the center of gravity,” said Strauss. The offering allows Comcast to latch on to customers who are migrating towards uses of “skinny bundles,” or a narrower selection of cable and broadcast networks as broadband technology makes it easier to access them without as much control from a traditional intermediary.

The executive said the service would also help customers manage and control various connected-home services, including home automation or managing a Wi-Fi password. “This is an opportunity for us to play a role in how we make it easier for our customers to both onboard these devices and control these devices,” Strauss said.

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