Xfinity Instant TV arrives in beta, signaling next broadband battle

Comcast spent over two years experimenting with its Stream video app in the Boston and Chicago areas, before essentially juggling some content and renaming the millennial-targeted service as Xfinity Instant TV – rolling it out in beta mode to broadband subscribers in “select areas” this week.

Going down the Go90, millennials-only route would be a glaring mistake, which is why Xfinity TV offers three additional packages on top, to resemble a service much more akin to something like Dish Network’s Sling TV or Sky’s Now TV in the UK.

In short, Xfinity Instant TV is a staunch defense against AT&T, in both video up against DirecTV Now and in broadband, and the move is a precursor to the elusive main prize – selling OTT video through a rival broadband line. Of course, this may never happen. It depends heavily on Comcast’s ability to negotiate out of home viewing rights and given that Comcast has 70 channels for out of home viewing on a previous TV Everywhere app, it may already have those right but just not want to include them yet; only then will Instant TV have the potential to become a true disruptor.

Xfinity Instant TV will initially only be available inside Comcast broadband homes on PCs, mobile devices and Roku boxes – accessed via the existing Stream app. This suggests that although Stream remains active as a standalone service for now, it will be gradually phased out in favor of Xfinity Instant TV. Instant TV live channels can only be streamed on the home WiFi, while a limited number of on-demand titles will be available outside the home.

Instant TV’s limited basic package costs $18 a month and will get you little more than a lineup of around 12 broadcast channels, while the Kids and Family package costs $10 a month, Entertainment $15, and Sports and News $30. HBO channels alone will set you back an extra $15 and Starz costs $12. Latino and Deportes packages are also available, costing $5 and $7 a month respectively.

The cheapest possible monthly subscription therefore costs $53, including the basic package plus a minimum Xfinity broadband subscription fee of $45. When all three packages are thrown in, we’re already up to $118, and if a faster 200 Mbps connection is desired, costing $60 a month, all of a sudden an Instant TV subscriber is $143 out of a pocket every month – no longer the affordable alternative to a full cable TV subscription.

When a consumer’s monthly TV and broadband costs are coming out at around the $140 mark, there is no reason for them not to migrate to the full Xfinity triple play package at the same price point. Comcast now has a fully-fledged cable subscriber – job done.

Comcast plans to expand Instant TV across its entire footprint within the next fortnight – making the service available to its 25.3 million broadband subscribers as well as the 50 million US homes it passes. It comes with up to 20 hours of HD storage on cloud DVR, plus it allows for two simultaneous streams, with a 30-day free trial.

Back in February, Comcast launched its successor to the Xfinity TV app bringing full Xfinity X1 functionality, including a Spanish guide, filtering, music channels and Common Sense media ratings to X1 users. This comes with some 40,000 on-demand assets, although Comcast has not yet confirmed how many of these are available on Instant TV.

Instant TV’s Entertainment package provides ESPN, AMC, A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, TBS, TNT and USA. Kids and Family gets you Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon and TLC, while Sports and News grants access to CNBC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Sports 1, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports, NFL Network, as well as Regional Sports Networks based on markets.