Comcast is selling an $18 streaming TV service

Comcast would rather you buy a lot of TV from them, not a little.

But if you want to buy a little, they’ll sell you that, too: The biggest pay TV provider in the country is starting to sell an $18-a-month “skinny bundle” which gives you a handful of TV channels, primarily the big broadcasters.

Comcast, which has been testing the service for a while, is officially rolling it out now and will be selling it around the country over the next two weeks. (Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.)

Like newish services on the market from Hulu, YouTube and others, you can stream Comcast’s “Xfinity Instant TV” at home, or anywhere else you can get a broadband connection. And like those offerings, this one doesn’t require a set-top box or an annual subscription. You can also add on extras like HBO, or a $30-a-month sports/news package that includes ESPN, Fox News and CNN.

The big difference: Unlike rival streaming services, this one is only available for Comcast’s 25.3 million broadband customers.

That is, Comcast is marketing this one to a subset of its customers — those who use it for internet but aren’t paying it for TV. And Comcast is hoping to eventually entice some of those customers to a “real” TV bundle, with a bunch of cable channels. The way it has always sold TV.

That explains why Comcast isn’t making a big deal about this one. A much bigger move would be for Comcast to sell a streaming version of this out of its “footprint” — that is, to anyone with a broadband connection, regardless of where they get it.

That could happen one day, as Comcast has been assembling those rights for some time. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting, again, that the country’s biggest pay TV provider is now its biggest broadband provider. And that for the past few years, Comcast has had more broadband subscribers than TV subscribers.

So the number of people who might want this — either because they’re not paying Comcast for TV today or because they’re already paying Comcast but might want to trade down to a smaller package — could keep growing.

Even if Comcast wishes otherwise.


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