The largest cable operator in the United States is gearing its newest service to towards its younger customers, those especially keen on watching their television shows on computers and mobile devices.
Comcast made the decision to launch Stream, a new service giving viewers access to live and on-demand programming from about a dozen networks, along with cloud DVR storage and Streampix, Comcast’s movie offering.
The decision comes off a major turning point in the cable company’s second quarter of this year where they saw their Internet subscribers surpass their total video subscribers for the first time ever. The number of American households that pay for broadband service but not television increased by 16 percent, from 9.2 million in 2012 to 10.7 million in 2014.
This shift in business is leaving entrenched cable companies scrambling for video subscribers and thus have changed in order to cater to new kinds of viewers: the cord cutter and the cord never. The first term refers to mostly younger consumers who have canceled their cable packages but still watch television on the Internet, the latter are those who never subscribed for a cable package in the first place.
Joining the likes of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, Stream hopes to give their viewers the flexibility to pay for the exact television they wish to watch as well as decide how they wish to watch it. And herein lies the first problem: while Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon offer their services to be streamed to their television sets, Stream is only available via mobile devices and computers.
Launching in Boston, Chicago and Seattle later this year, Stream will be available across Comcast’s coverage areas in the United States in 2016. However, people in areas where Comcast is not offered as a cable service cannot subscribe to the service.
With plans for eventual expansion, the service is convenient for customers who will have the option to sign up and cancel online, all without the hassle of installing any equipment or costly technician visits.
Stream will certainly have to work out its kinks if it wants to compete with the widely popular Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, all of which are available for streaming on television sets. The three major players are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding their offerings with more extensive libraries and more original content (think Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series Orange is the New Black from Netflix and Transparent from Amazon). After its first quarter this year, Netflix counted 40.3 million paid members is America, with Hulu holding 9 million in April.