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Comcast courts Sling for multicultural content

Comcast wants to speak your language. So much so, that it has solidified a deal with Dish Network, a national satellite TV competitor, to bring the latter's internet-delivered Sling TV service to Comcast's advanced X1 platform and cable boxes in the near future.

As Dish did first on satellite, Sling TV has made a distinct mark by offering internet-connected customers more than 320 multicultural, "in-language" channels, most not available until now on cable services because of channel-bandwidth constraints.

Sling TV's world embraces native speakers of Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, German, Italian, Polish, Arabic and Urdu, offering them monthly packages of homeland channels as an add-on or stand-alone service.

In short order, those niche channels (and other Sling bundles) also will be available on the Web-enabled X1 box, accessible to viewers in "smart, fast and easy-to-use" fashion,  said Javier Garcia, senior vice president and general manager, multicultural services, for Comcast Cable. A hot topic at local headquarters, multicultural consumers are the fastest-growing segment of the population, increasing by 2.3 million per year and predicted in U.S. Census projections to become a majority by 2044.

Comcast recently introduced X1 voice-control functionality in Spanish for its 2.5 million Spanish-speaking customers.

Pricing for Sling TV services on X1 will be "consistent with current offers on other platforms," where multicultural add-on packages start at $10 a month, said a Sling/Dish representative.

But trade publication Multichannel News pointed to Sling-imported channel bundles priced considerably higher – including four packages of Hindi-language TV ranging from $25 to $45 a month.

As Sling TV usage taps a customer's internet service allowance, X1 viewers who keep the home fires burning (and streaming) 24/7 might also wind up paying Xfinity internet overage fees, based on Comcast's usage-based data policies. The data caps are being tested in some Comcast markets, mostly in the Midwest and the South, not locally.