Comcast Streams Into Chicago

Stream TV, Comcast’s mobile-first IPTV service for cord-cutters, launched Thursday in Chicago, a move that follows the service’s debut earlier this month in the Greater Boston region, which includes eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

The no-contract, $15 per month service, targeted to broadband-only customers, features the major broadcast networks, HBO, access to “thousands” of VOD titles and the MSO’s Cloud DVR service. Comcast has plans to make Stream TV available across its footprint by early next year. The service FAQ (opens in new tab) notes that the new service is also available in select areas of Indiana and Michigan. Comcast has previously identified Seattle among cities that will get Stream TV in the early phases of the rollout.

The Cloud DVR component of Stream TV lets subs record up to two shows at once and holds 100 GB of storage (about enough for 20 hours of HD programming). Stream TV subs can watch on up to two devices at the same time.

Stream TV, delivered to the home on Comcast managed IP network, supports Web browsers, smartphones and tablets via the Xfinity TV app. Using their credentials, Stream TV subs can view some programming from ABC, Fox and HBO (via their respective apps) on connected TV devices such as Roku players, Apple TV boxes, the Amazon Fire TV, gaming consoles and via the Chromecast streaming adapter.

Update: Comcast's FAQ also reiterates that the in-home Stream TV service is exempt from the MSO's monthly Internet data usage allowance policies, which have recently been expanded to several markets, though not yet in Chicago or Boston. "Stream TV is a cable streaming service delivered over Comcast's cable system, not over the Internet. Therefore, Stream TV data usage will not be counted towards your XFINITY Internet monthly data usage," the MSO notes.

This approach came up with Comcast's original Xfinity TV app for the Xbox 360 (Comcast recently discontinued that app), which was also delivered over separately managed IP capacity, and not "over-the-top," meaning that the traffic did not co-mingle with spectrum and capacity set aside for the MSO's high-speed Internet service. Comcast has also been careful not to label Stream TV as an OTT service. However, the same can't be said for TV Everywhere apps that Stream TV subs can access in or out of the home.  

Comcast introduced Stream TV in July, and is launching it as it continues to improve its video sub losses. It shed 48,000 video subs, nearly half the 81,000 it lost in the prior year period and marking its best Q3 in nine years.

While Stream TV allows Comcast to target a different set of consumers, the MSO’s primary video focus is on X1, it next-gen video offering. “X1 has been transformative for us,”  Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s EVP and GM of video services said last week at the Wells Fargo Tech, Media & Telecom conference in New York. He said  VOD usage on X1 is 45% higher than on Comcast’s legacy video platform. About 25% of Comcast’s video sub base is now on X1.

Strauss acknowledged that Comcast must be careful not to cannibalize its base video offerings with slimmed –down offerings like Stream TV and Internet Plus.

“You have to monitor that very, very closely,” he said. “This isn’t about putting things in the market to get consumers to downgrade.”

Dish Network (via Sling TV, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems are among other MVPDs that have launched or are testing streaming products geared for the cord-cutting crowd and consumers who have never taken a traditional pay TV service.