US cable operator Comcast has launched a subscription video-on-demand (SVod) service dubbed Xfinity Streampix, offering movies and TV shows to customers of its Xfinity TV service. Xfinity Streampix will be bundled for Comcast triple-play and premium-tier broadband subscribers, and will be offered as a standalone, $4.99 per month subscription to all other Comcast digital TV subscribers.
Initial content partners include Disney ABC Television, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. Streampix is being positioned alongside premium networks like HBO and Showtime and is available though the same platforms currently enabled to Xfinity TV subscribers: cable set-top boxes, XfinityTV.com, and the Xfinity TV app. Support for Xbox 360 and Android devices is expected to follow.
Streampix can and should be compared to OTT services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (particularly in light of reports that Netflix is investigating using pay TV operators as a route to market) - even the new service's name invites comparison. However this comparison can only be taken so far because the priorities of the operator's service is rather different to a conventional OTT play, not least of which is the inclusion of Streampix in Comcast's conventional VoD offer.
There are several underlying strategies at work. On the one hand, bundling Streampix - and offering it across numerous devices - is equivalent to taking out an insurance policy on the value that Comcast generates from the primary TV set. If Comcast can plug the entry-point for OTT services on peripheral devices, it can stop the spread of an OTT service from peripheral CE to primary TV set.
For Comcast's 22m TV customers, Streampix certainly represents a cheaper alternative to Netflix, although not necessarily a better value one; at launch Streampix offers a more limited selection of content. Streampix has 1,851 episodes from 34 shows compared to Netflix's 39,817 episodes from 1,292 shows.