Following closely in DirecTV's footsteps, Comcast has become the second major US pay-TV provider to start offering Ultra HD (UHD) programming to its subscribers.
Comcast, the biggest pay-TV operator in the US with nearly 22.4 million video customers, has launched a 4K streaming app that will enable subscribers to watch select TV shows in the UHD format on an on-demand basis via the Internet. The MSO's Xfinity TV subscribers can download the new 4K app, known as Xfinity in UHD, for free using their standard authentication credentials.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which set a year-end deadline for launching the streaming service when it announced its 4K plans at CES last January, is initially making the new Xfinity app available to customers with 2014 Ultra HD sets from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) under a deal it struck earlier with the leading consumer electronics manufacturer. But the MSO will undoubtedly broaden its reach to other CE makers over time. (See Gentlemen, Start Your 4K Engines.)
Right off the bat, Comcast is offering full seasons from select TV shows from its NBCUNiversal unit's NBC and USA networks. Specifically, it's debuting with episodes from NBC's Chicago Fire and USA's Covert Affairs, with NBC's Parks and Recreation series slated to follow in February. Plans call for adding other shows and networks over time as Comcast builds up its UHD programming library.
By offering the 4K streaming service for no extra charge to its customers, Comcast is taking a different tack than DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), its huge satellite TV rival. DirecTV, which ranks second only to Comcast in its video sub count, introduced its 4K streaming service last month by offering about 30 movie titles on a pay-per-view basis. Customers must pay up to $10 a title to watch the movies on-demand.
Besides delivering Xfinity in UHD to Sansung TV viewers, Comcast said it will offer the 4K streaming service to portable devices through its Xfinity TV Go app sometime next year. The MSO also intends to introduce an advanced new X1 set-top box that supports 4K video in 2015.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading