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Comcast Zeroes in on Streaming Future

Though it has so far stopped short of launching a national streaming service, Comcast is laying the groundwork for a new, in-footprint Internet-protocol TV service that will deliver a variety of packages to mobile and TV-connected devices.

Industry sources confirmed that Comcast is eyeing a third-quarter commercial launch for Xfinity Instant TV, a managed IPTV service that will initially be targeted to broadband subscribers who don’t take a pay TV package from the operator.

Reuters reported that the app-based Xfinity Instant TV will be priced starting at about $15 per month and include packages that could sell for up to $40 per month and allow for add-ons such as ESPN.

Comcast has not announced pricing or expected launch timing for Xfinity Instant TV, but a source said Xfinity Instant TV would include a cloud DVR component.

Though the initial focus for Xfinity Instant TV will be on broadband customers without a traditional pay TV service, Comcast is also developing a video-only IP video gateway that could support the new, no-contract offering.

Xfinity Instant TV also represents a rebrand of Stream TV, a skinny-bundle IPTV package that Comcast has been testing in select markets, including Boston and Chicago.

The original Stream TV service being trialed costs about $15 per month and is available only on mobile devices. A source said the rebranded, commercial Xfinity Instant TV service will also support mobile apps as well as certain TV-connected devices. Customers on the coming product will access their subscriptions via a newly unified Xfinity Stream app that also supports the MSO’s flagship X1 video service and authenticated TV Everywhere content.

Comcast is beta-testing a pay TV app for the Roku platform, and has one in the works for Samsung smart TVs. The MSO is expected to eventually support other TV-connected platforms through the Xfinity TV Partner Program, which it introduced about a year ago.

Comcast is expected to market and sell Xfinity Instant TV within its traditional cable footprint. The operator has been amassing out-of-market streaming rights to some networks, primarily through “most favored nation” clauses in its programming distribution contracts, but has been clear in its belief that the economics of an out-of-footprint OTT TV service don’t add up.