With its Stream service, the biggest cable provider in the US is testing the waters in trying to get more revenue from customers who have either cut their cable-TV connection or never signed up for it. That segment includes people who have wearied of paying for cable channels they don’t watch as well as those who watch TV shows on screens other than televisions.
In offering the service, Comcast is following its subscribers’ eyeballs and doing the math. The company’s Internet customers are expected to outnumber its cable-TV customers for the first time when second-quarter 2015 results are reported next month. Comcast gets more revenue from its video service — $5.3 billion for the first quarter — than from high-speed Internet — $3 billion in the quarter.
Earlier this year Dish Network, the satellite provider of pay-TV services, started its own streaming service, Sling TV. Premium cable channels HBO and Showtime, which wouldn’t exist without cable, offer services that stream their content for a monthly fee. The CBS TV lineup is available to stream for a monthly fee.
The companies have followed Netflix and Hulu to provide what the industry calls “over the top” services, in which content is delivered over the Internet rather than cable or satellite. With an Internet connection, viewers can watch on phones, tablets, and computers. And they can watch on their TVs through devices like Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire as well as TVs and DVD players equipped for Wi-Fi reception.
But it’s not like Comcast is going whole hog for “over the top” with Stream, which the company calls a beta, or test, product.
Stream offers broadcast TV networks and HBO for $15 a month. The service is available to customers of Comcast’s Xfinity Internet service for streaming on phones, tablets, and computers. The service starts in Boston, then moves to Chicago and Seattle. It should be available to all Comcast customers in 2016.
On the other hand, Dish’s Sling lineup includes cable networks such as ESPN, AMC, and TNT. It’s available to all for $20 a month.
With carriers and content providers jockeying to keep up with consumers, one thing is clear: Viewers have more choices about what to watch, where to watch, and when to watch.
Tim Green has covered business, technology and science at newspapers and in higher education. At Hoover’s he covers computers and telecommunications.
Image courtesy of Comcast