Two years ago, Comcast announced it would launch a live streaming service called Stream TV that would include your local network affiliates, and HBO, for just $15 a month. The nation’s top cable operator proclaimed that Stream would change television forever.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever offered: no extra device or additional equipment required…or even a TV,” blogged Comcast executive vice president Matt Strauss, noting that Stream could be viewed on tablets and computers.
However, since that ballyhooed announcement, the cable operator has launched Stream in just two markets — Chicago and Boston. Yes, just two markets, and Comcast has been evasive as to why it hasn’t offered it anywhere else.
But Comcast says Stream will finally go nationwide later this year, although it will now carry the name, ‘Xfinity Instant TV.’
“We’ve been testing it for a while,” David N. Watson, Comcast’s president of cable, told Wall Street analysts last week, in the understatement of last week. “We’ll launch it more broadly in the second half of the year.”
Watson said Stream TV — uh, I mean, Instant TV — will be distributed over a managed network without a set-top. It’s unclear if the service will be offered exclusively to Comcast Internet subscribers, or customers of any Internet service, as Comcast once said it planned to do.
Watson did say Instant TV will target Millennials, which, of course, nearly every live streaming service hopes to do.
Final note: During the Wall Street analyst session last week, we may have received some indication as to why Stream, or Instant, has been largely a no-show for two years.
Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal (owned by Comcast), and a longtime Comcast executive, said he’s skeptical that live streaming will ever become a big business.
“It is a very tough business, and we, as before, we are skeptical it will be a very large business or profitable business, and they are off to a relatively slow start,” Burke said.
Instant TV is somewhat different from live streaming services such as DIRECTV Now and Sling TV because it will be offered on a managed network rather than made available to anyone with an Internet connection. But Burke’s comments would suggest that at least one influential Comcast executive is not sold on selling programming via the Net.
— Phillip Swann