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Comcast’s ‘Stream’ Aims for Millennials

Aiming to protect its TV business by connecting with elusive millennials and a growing group of cord-cutters, Comcast is preparing to trial “Stream,” a new Internet- protocol-delivered service that will offer major broadcast networks, a menu of video-on-demand fare and HBO to mobile devices.

Stream will cost $15 per month, but subscribers must bundle in Comcast’s high-speed Internet service.

Stream, set for initial trials in Boston later this summer followed by rollouts in Chicago and Seattle, will limit live TV streaming to the customer’s home via Comcast’s managed IP network on the Xfinity TV app for tablets, smartphones and Web browsers; the channels won’t be delivered “over-the-top” via public Internet connections or made accessible outside the customer’s home.

It won’t be entirely home-bound, though. A cloud DVR feature will let Stream users watch recorded shows in or out of the home, and most VOD titles will be graced with out-of-home rights. Stream subscribers will also have access to HBO Go, but the core offering won’t be available on TV-connected devices.

Stream’s broadcast TV and cloud DVR focus makes it somewhat akin to the now-defunct Aereo service, but sets it far apart from Sling TV, the new OTT-delivered skinny-bundle service from Dish Network that starts at $20 per month but is more focused on cable networks and thematic add-on packages.

Given Stream’s limitations, it is not expected to significantly cannibalize Comcast’s pay TV base, but it could be used as a save tactic for customers who are threatening to cut the TV cord and appeal to so-called cord-nevers.

The service will also represent a flexing of the IP video muscles Comcast has developed for X1 and its Xfinity on Campus services. Stream is “another interesting offer to kids when they get broadband, which is what they really want,” Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder of nScreen-Media, said.

But he said he questions whether Stream will be compelling enough for the audience that Comcast is trying to reach, noting that there’s some overlap with Internet Plus, another offering tailored for cord-cutters that ties together a basic TV package, broadband and HBO, but uses set-tops.

“It’s kind of an odd step-child,” Dixon said of Stream, noting that the in-home limitations for live TV could be a big turn-off to consumers who subscribe to services like Netflix.