Comcast getting pushback on Instant TV pricing

Utility van with the word "Comcast on the side"
Image: Comcast

Cable MSO Comcast is facing a bit of market confusion for its new streaming skinny bundle.

Comcast is billing the service as an $18-a-month skinny bundle of streamed channels. But consumers, journalists and rivals aren’t sure what to make of a service that isn’t necessarily over-the-top (it’s delivered only over Comcast’s network) and is only available to subscribers of Comcast’s broadband services. 

“Comcast launches Instant TV that will cost $68 to $100 a month after internet charges,” blared a headline today in the cable operator’s hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

“You wrote the price for the service starts at $18—does that include the separate gateway fee (10 bucks per?),” asked a PR executive for a rival pay-TV operator, when FierceCable wrote about the long-awaited official launch of Instant TV two weeks ago. 

RELATED: Comcast finally set to roll out IP-based skinny bundle, Instant TV

Instant TV streams the major broadcast networks, including The CW, as well as Spanish-language channels such as Telemundo and Univision for $18 a month. Cable channels such as ESPN, AMC and CNN can be add through extra packages ranging in price from $10 to $15 a month. Premium channels like HBO can be added for $15 a month. 

The catch: Consumers must have a Comcast internet account to get the service. 

This is causing some to curiously conflate the internet and TV service costs. 

“The monthly cost to Comcast customers will be between $68 and slightly more than $100 for mostly free over-the-air television channels, as it will be offered only to Xfinity internet subscribers,” wrote the Inquirer’s Bob Fernandez. “They pay $50, $75, or $85 a month for internet services after promotions, according to the Comcast website.”

Operators of truly OTT skinny bundles such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV and Hulu Live typically only quote the monthly price of their service. For instance, AT&T quotes a monthly price of $35 for its most popular DirecTV Now tier. The broadband isn’t included. 

Perhaps because Comcast is tying its streaming service exclusively to its wireline broadband platform, it’s the one getting early pushback. 

"The price for Instant is as advertised. What Bob is doing here is looking at prices for standalone Xfinity Internet service for customers in his area, and then calculating what the total bill may be for adding on Xfinity Instant," responded Comcast rep Liza Scalzo, when asked by FierceCable what marketing strategies Comcast might have to offset the price conflation.