Comcast will provide a free streaming box to its Internet-only subscribers, helping it control their television viewing experience even without having to pay for cable. The streaming box, called the Xfinity Flex, was introduced in March, and it originally cost $ 5 a month, which is a ridiculous price when you consider that you can get a Roku for $ 30 apartment.
Now Comcast is getting more aggressive, and that's right when the streaming video competition heats up. Having a Flex in the home of Internet-only subscribers gives Comcast a chance to cut some of those subscriptions if it could result in signups. Customers can also buy and rent TV shows and movies directly through Comcast using the box.
The box also gives Comcast control over what customers do not see. As my colleague Chris Welch previously pointed out, Flex does not include cable package options such as PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, so the box can also help you get people back to Comcast's own cable service if they get sick of the limited offerings. It also lacks major streaming options from competitors, such as Apple TV Plus and Disney +. (Neither will be available until November, but the support is not mentioned.)
Comcast plans to launch its own streaming service next year, which also appears to tie to all this. The NBC streaming service, now called Peacock, is scheduled to launch in April next year with a huge back catalog and a number of new series, including a Battlestar Galactica reboot. CNBC previously reported that Comcast hopes to charge wires around $ 1
Even with this announcement, Comcast's strategy around the Flex box is still pretty weird. It will still cost $ 5 per month per box for an extra Flex, and it will be limited to just two of the paid units, which may not be enough for a large house with many TVs. The rent is still a strategy entirely designed to squeeze out money from customers, hoping they don't realize it is a better way to get a power unit. To be clear: no one should rent a streaming box. There are far cheaper options that will quickly save you money over the cost of Comcast's alternative.
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge & # 39; s parent company.