CenturyLink Pulling Plug on OTT TV Beta Service

Less than a year after its debut as a beta offering, CenturyLink is shutting down CenturyLink Stream, a national OTT TV service that was available on several connected devices, including an Android TV box that was branded by the telco.

CenturyLink informed subscribers this week that all CenturyLink Stream services will end effective March 31, 2018.

RELATED: CenturyLink Bows Beta of OTT TV Service 

The CenturyLink Stream web site also notes that the service is indeed “ending,” and that it is no longer accepting new subscribers to the OTT TV service. Existing subscribers can continue to sign in and use the service until their current subscription period ends.

“Thank you to all who have streamed with us and provided feedback,” the company notes in the web site message.

To help soften the blow, the company is offering CenturyLink Stream customers to rent movies on the OTT service for free until March 31, 2018.

CenturyLink has not announced how many subscribers have signed on for the offering, and did not elaborate on the decision to shut down the beta and has not announced if it intends to reintroduce it at some point down the road.

CenturyLink, even after it introduced CenturyLink Stream, has shown a willingness to partner with third-party virtual MVPDs, so that kind of scenario might enter play if CenturyLink is interested in providing an OTT TV option to its broadband-only customers.

“[W]e are open to looking at other options,” Glen Post, CenturyLink’s CEO, said last August on the company’s Q2 earnings call. “Matter of fact, we continually talk with some of these other providers, look at the best ways we can bring that service and also other ways in working with them to reduce our content cost...It does not have to be our product.”

RELATED: CenturyLink Still Open to Partnerships With OTT TV Providers

CenturyLink already resells DirecTV satellite TV service, so it might not be a stretch to see the telco also offer a bundle involving DirecTV Now, AT&T’s OTT TV offering.

In fact, Windstream recently cut a new deal that enables it to bundle both the satellite TV service as well as DirecTV Now. Consolidated 

Consolidated Communications, meanwhile, is now pitching fuboTV, a sports-oriented OTT TV service, to broadband customers. That deal came way of a larger distribution agreement between fuboTV and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC). PlayStation Vue has a similar pact with the NCTC

RELATED: NCTC Reaches Pact with fuboTV

Update: It appears that CenturyLink will indeed look into third-party arrangements for OTT. "CenturyLink continually evaluates the products and services we offer and makes changes when and where needed," a CenturyLink spokesperson said in a statement. "The CenturyLink Stream Beta will be discontinued in April 2018 and we will pursue new partnerships to meet emerging market trends in the video space."

CenturyLink Stream was set up to be a nationally available complement to Prism TV, CenturyLink’s in-footprint, full-freight, managed IPTV service that is powered by Ericsson Mediaroom platform. CenturyLink had talked about deemphasizing Prism TV service, or at least relegating its focus on the higher end of its customer base.

When it debuted, CenturyLink Stream’s baseline “Ultimate” package sold for $45 per month (discounted to $40 when bundled with CenturyLink’s high-speed internet service) for a linupe of almost 50 channels. Access to local broadcast networks and certain regional sports networks varied by location. The service’s cloud DVR could store up to 50 hours of programming.

CenturyLink Stream enabled subs to watch on up to three devices at the same time, and install the service on as many as 20 devices. It was set up to run on iOS and Android mobile devices, web browsers,  Roku players and Roku TVs, as well as the CenturyLink Player, an Android TV-powered device made by LG Electronics that CenturyLink was selling for $89.99.

The coming shut down of the CenturyLink Stream beta will remove one virtual MVPD from a list that includes Sling TV, DirecTV Now, PS Vue, YouTube TV, Hulu, Philo and fuboTV.

RELATED: Virtual MVPDs Ended 2017 with 5.3M Subs: Study