The younger generation of television viewers has already begun to stray away from cable television, opting instead for streaming video services online like Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert). HBO’s announcement earlier this year of HBO Now, a service that allows users to watch HBO programming online without a cable subscription, will only continue that trend. Comcast (News - Alert) has become the first major cable company to try and adapt to this new generation of entertainment seekers, announcing a new service called Stream, to be launched later this year.
Stream will allow users to access both live and on-demand programming over the Internet, as well as DVR services. This new service has many alluring features. First of all, it is cheap: users who receive Internet services from Comcast can add Stream for only an additional $15 per month. It is also much more convenient than current cable services. Users can sign up or cancel their subscriptions online, and there is no cable box or other apparatus that requires visits from a technician.
Matthew Strauss, executive vice president and general manager of video services for Comcast, remarked on the need to provide an Internet television option. “Clearly, there are changes happening in the marketplace,” he said. “Not everyone is going to want a full pay-tv bundle.”
While Stream is a great idea in theory and has the potential to lay the foundation for Internet TV services, it does have its drawbacks. Greatest among these is limitation of channels. Stream will initially carry only the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, etc.) and HBO. As more and more popular programs move to network channels (Monday Night Football on ESPN (News - Alert) or Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead on AMC), the viability of this will continue to be diminished.
According to Strauss, Comcast will eventually look to expand the breadth of Stream’s content. In the future, subscribers will be able to add other premium channels like Showtime or packages of network channels like ESPN or Comedy Central, for a small additional fee.
With services like Stream, cable companies can appeal to people who want to watch television over the Internet while still capitalizing on their advantage over streaming video services: live content. Stream, if it is able to expand its content, will provide a happy marriage between new age Internet TV services and traditional cable service.