Comcast said Thursday that it will launch a $5-a-month streaming platform for internet-only customers, targeting consumers who have ditched traditional pay TV for online video streaming.
The new service, called Xfinity Flex, will let customers access their subscriptions to such streaming services as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as 10,000 free movies and shows, including live TV from ESPN3 and other networks. It will come with a 4K HDR streaming box and a voice remote. The service will debut March 26.
Xfinity Flex is Comcast’s response to an ongoing trend of consumers dropping traditional cable TV for less expensive internet-based streaming services. Comcast lost about 371,000 cable subscribers last year, according to market research firm MoffettNathanson.
The product is similar to Comcast’s X1 video platform for cable subscribers. It aggregates streaming services that customers pay for, such as HBO and Showtime, and free ad-supported live TV services such as Cheddar and Pluto TV. Consumers can also rent or purchase movies through the service and listen to music on such applications as Pandora.
Xfinity Flex will eventually allow customers to instantly upgrade to traditional pay-TV service, because the equipment will already be installed. The platform will also let customers manage internet-connected devices, such as security cameras, from the TV screen. Xfinity Flex is available only for customers within Comcast’s footprint.
“Xfinity Flex will deepen our relationship with a certain segment of our Internet customers and provide them with real value,” Matt Strauss, Comcast’s executive vice president of Xfinity services, said in a statement.
An Amazon Fire Stick and Roku Streaming Stick have similar capabilities, letting consumers access streaming services on one platform. Those products cost roughly $40 upfront and don’t have an ongoing rental fee like Xfinity Flex.
“This is really a very clever way of luring cord-cutters back into the ecosystem,” Bloomberg analyst Geetha Ranganathan said of Xfinity Flex. “Five dollars doesn’t seem like a whole lot when it’s slapped onto your internet bill … but down the road it is a nice way to get a foot in the door [to potentially sell] a more full-fledged video package, which I think is their ultimate goal.”
Ranganathan noted that Xfinity Flex will launch a day after Apple is expected to unveil its video streaming service.
Cable companies are pivoting away from video to broadband, as a third of all U.S. households are expected to be broadband-only subscribers in a few years, Ranganathan said.