Comcast Lights ‘Energy Rewards’ Pilot In Pennsylvania

The cable bundle is about to get bigger…and maybe a bit more electrifying.

After hints of a cable-energy partnership bubbled up in January, Comcast and a unit of NRG Energy have lit up a pilot that offers a variety of perks and rewards, including prepaid Visa cards and three free months of HBO, Showtime or Starz, to Comcast subs in Pennsylvania who enroll in one of two new energy programs.

The test program, called Energy Rewards, teams Independence Energy Group (IEG), a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, with Comcast.  SNL Kagan analyst Deborah Yao first spotted the Energy Rewards Web site on Monday. A Comcast spokesman confirmed that the trial got underway last week.

Update: Per the program's current eligibility profile, the trial is limited to areas serviced by Duquesne Light, which serves portions of Allegheny County (near Pittsburgh) and Beaver County and about 584,000 customers.

The perk-filled Energy Rewards program, offered only to Comcast subscribers in Pennsylvania, currently offers two energy plans: a six-month, variable “Guaranteed Savings” plan that offers a 10% savings off the utility’s price, and a fixed plan that locks in a price for 12-month period. There are no cancellation fees, according to the Energy Rewards FAQ.

The local utility will continue to bill those customers for electricity, but Energy Rewards members are also in line to obtain several special offers, including a $25 Visa Prepaid Card for enrolling in the program, and a three month “extended freeview” of HBO, Showtime or Starz. According to the fine print, the premium channel offer ends on December 31, and is limited to digital video subs had not subscribed to the selected channel in the past 120 days.

Energy Rewards members are also eligible for other perks, including a 20% discount on movie tickets from Fandango, the service Comcast acquired in 2007, and access to local movie screenings and sweepstakes, as well as periodic, six month “milestone” rewards that could include a pair of  free movie tickets and deals on other Comcast products and services.

Among other program bonuses, Comcast is also offering a free Smart Thermostat for its Xfinity Home service, and 20% off Fandango gift cards,

We’ve made it easier and more rewarding for Comcast customers to switch their energy supplier,” the companies tout in the marketing materials.

Earlier this year, Robert Powelson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, signaled earlier this year that Comcast and a retail electric supplier in the state, later revealed to be NRG, were working on an agreement and expected to launch a joint project by the fourth quarter of 2014.

If the trial turns into a deployment and spawns similar partnerships elsewhere, such programs could help to deepen the cable service bundle while also adding a component to Xfinity Home, the MSO’s the home security/automation service that already features a cloud-based home energy management component called EcoSaver that was developed through MSO’s partnership with iControl and EcoFactor.