Comcast Plays Down New OTT Service

Comcast executives describe Stream as more of an introductory video service and say they don't expect 'meaningful results' for some time.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

July 24, 2015

3 Min Read
Comcast Plays Down New OTT Service

Despite the much-ballyhooed unveiling of their new OTT service last week, Comcast officials don't expect Stream to be streaming lots of revenues for some time.

Speaking on the company's second-quarter earnings call Thursday, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) executives said they view Stream as mainly an "upsell" product to lure broadband-only customers and millennials to their broader video offerings. They also see it as "an extension" of their growing Xfinity On Campus service, a streaming video product targeted at college students who don't take the MSO's traditional pay-TV packages.

"We're using it to drive" consumers to "our broader [video] experiences," said Comcast Corp. Chairman & CEO Brian Roberts, describing Stream as "part of the panoply" of new products that the MSO is developing and deploying to attract subscribers. "There are a lot of reasons to like this product."

Resembling such other "skinny bundle" OTT offerings as Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH)'s Sling TV package, Stream will offer viewers all the major broadcast networks, PBS and HBO for $15 a month without a contract. Comcast will bundle the service with its broadband packages, offering it only within the MSO's existing cable footprint. Plans call for rolling it out market by market, starting with Boston at the end of the summer, followed by Chicago and Seattle later this year and other markets in 2016. (See Comcast 'Stream' Joins OTT Flood.)

As they have before, Comcast executives took pains to emphasize that Stream will not technically be an OTT service because it will run over their own managed IP network, not via public Internet connections. Terming it a "Title 6" product, Comcast Cable President & CEO Neil Smit said the company won't have to pay any additional licensing fees for the streaming content because the rights are covered under its existing contracts with programmers.

Comcast officials also stressed that they don't expect Stream to be a major revenue contributor any time soon. "It's not something you're going to see meaningful results from in the near future," Roberts said.

Want to know more about pay-TV market trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.

The growing stream of new broadband products from Comcast comes as the giant MSO, like most other US cable operators, copes with the increasing predominance of broadband in the cable business. In its second-quarter earnings report, Comcast revealed that it now has more broadband customers than video customers for the first time, like most other major US MSOs. (See Comcast Plots First DOCSIS 3.1 Trials.)

Comcast gained 180,000 residential broadband customers in the spring quarter, down from 203,000 in the year-ago period, to boost its total to over 22.5 million. Despite some slowing broadband growth, it has still added nearly 1.3 million broadband subscribers over the past 12 months.

At the same time, Comcast lost 69,000 video subscribers in the spring quarter, a marked improvement over the 144,000 video customers it lost a year ago, and actually its best second-quarter performance on the video front in nine years. But, even with its slowing subscriber losses, Comcast has still shed about 150,000 video customers over the past year.

On the commercial end of the business, Comcast continues to rack up very strong gains. The MSO reported close to $1.2 billion in commercial service revenues for the quarter, up 20% from $965 million in the year-ago period. Through the first six months of the year, Comcast has now generated nearly $2.3 billion in commercial revenues, up 21% from last year and putting it on target to approach the $5 billion mark for all of 2015.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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