Comcast Broadens Its Video Scope

Targeting a section of the market that is also being pursued by a new slew of over-the-top TV providers, Comcast has introduced a skinny-TV bundle centered on the major broadcast networks, with the option for customers to tack on genre-based programming packages.

Following extensive trials in Boston and Chicago, that product, called Xfinity Instant TV, is being introduced (initially in beta form) across Comcast’s footprint over the next couple of weeks. Initially, it’s only available to Comcast high-speed internet subscribers, though the company will eventually offer a version for video-only customers.

Cloud DVR Added

The base service starts at $18 and includes a VOD library and cloud DVR with 20 hours of storage, plus options to add premium networks and fill in other gaps with separate packages (see chart). Though Xfinity Instant TV delivers features and content typically found in OTT services, it’s not being delivered over the public internet. Instead, the service, offered only within Comcast’s footprint, will go into the home via a managed IP connection that’s fed to a Comcast-supplied gateway that also supports Comcast’s broadband service and is typically leased for $10 per month.

The new offering is tailored to reach the “HSD-first, video second” segment of Comcast’s consumer base, Comcast Cable executive vice president of Xfinity services Matt Strauss said. “It’s for someone who has broadband service, but doesn’t necessarily take video; or they want video, but they want a different video experience.”

Comcast’s flagship video product, X1, has helped the MSO improve its video subscriber numbers in recent quarters, but Instant TV, which will share the same infrastructure as X1, will allow it address a “fairly material segment of the population,” Strauss said.

Comcast isn’t putting a number on the addressable market in its footprint for Instant TV, but SNL Kagan estimated that there were about 15.4 million broadband-only homes nationwide by the end of 2016, up by 2 million from the year before, with one in every six homes with broadband service eschewing a traditional pay TV offering.

Early on, Comcast will support Xfinity Instant TV on web browsers and the company’s Stream app for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as on supported Roku players and TVs. Comcast also plans to offer it on apps for certain smart TVs from Samsung and LG Electronics and other TV-connected devices to be identified later. Customers will be able to authenticate individual programmer apps across different TV-connected devices and game consoles.

“While we talk about importance of mobile-first, what we found is that, even for millennials, the television is important,” Strauss said. “And people still default to the best screen that’s available to them.”

Strauss said the technology underpinning Xfinity Instant TV is enabling Comcast to be more surgical in identifying and supporting different consumer segments while “identifying new ways to get the right products to the right customer at the right time of their life.”

He added, “Now we can be much more precise how we look at an HSD first customer, versus a customer who is very video-heavy, versus somebody who might be mobile-first.”

Learning Lessions

Strauss stressed that X1 will remain Comcast’s core video service. But the lessons learned and the digitally-focused components of the new Instant TV product will likely influence and enhance X1, he said.

“These are all attributes that, I think, have profound implications, more generally, around how we want to go to market,” he said. “Instant TV is the tip of the spear in how we have constructed a product that is really geared for our HSD-only customers … but it’s rethinking how we go to market and how we provide customers different types of choices.”

Xfinity Instant TV will focus on the 50 million homes in the MSO’s existing footprint. Though Comcast has secured out-of-footprint rights to some content, MSO executives have stressed that the economics of a pure OTT TV service don’t add up.

Pricing and Packaging

AT ABOUT $18 PER MONTH, the core Xfinity Instant TV package includes live and VOD content from ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, UniMás, Univision, as well as all PEG channels, and a cloud DVR with 20 hours of storage. Premium add-ons currently include HBO ($15 per month) and Starz ($12 per month), or Comcast’s own Streampix service ($4.99 per month). Add-ons include:

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, and TLC.

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 Network and VH1.

Sports and News ($30 per month, and includes up to $5 RSN fee): 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 (by market).

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 and Univision Deportes.