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Comcast-NBC Announces Direct to Consumer Streaming Service for 2020

Comcast-owned NBCUniversal today announced a 2020 launch of a new, advertiser-supported streaming service, relying on content libraries and distribution platforms from America’s NBCUniversal and Europe’s Sky.

In a press release about the new venture, NBCUniversal claims the service will reach over 90 million U.S. households and will include “some of the world’s most popular television and film franchises, including homegrown original programming as well as content from outside partners.”

The new service is a rare reminder that the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” project — offering streamed and on-demand content to “authenticated pay television customers” is still alive and kicking. NBCUniversal plans to offer the service to consumers for free, as long as they can prove they have an active cable or satellite TV subscription. Comcast and Sky will be the first to debut the service to their combined 52 million subscribers, with other providers likely to offer the service sometime later. Cord cutters will be able to purchase a subscription to the service, and a paid, ad-free option will also be available.

TV Everywhere, the cable industry’s effort to make on-demand content available for little or no charge, as long as you are an “authenticated pay-TV customer.”

NBCUniversal also announced an executive shuffle to reposition itself for the streaming venture. With Comcast’s 2018 acquisition of Sky, Europe’s largest satellite television provider, the yet-to-be-named streaming venture will draw talent from both sides of the Atlantic. Programming is expected to rely heavily on both NBCUniversal-owned content and a growing library of original shows and movies produced by Sky. European audiences will see more American programming and Americans will have greater access to popular Sky content, particularly from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The new streaming service represents an acknowledgment that traditional live, linear television is becoming less important as viewers increasingly shift towards on-demand viewing. NBCUniversal itself has recognized a trend away from live niche programming, and has closed down some of its lower-rated cable networks, including Cloo and Esquire. Original content on some lesser-known basic cable networks often amounts to little more than an hour or two a day, with the rest of the schedule populated with program length commercials or reruns of older network shows. Since NBCUniversal has a deep library of both original and older programming, it can offer viewers on-demand access to new shows and old favorites, attracting younger audiences.

“People are watching premium content more than ever, but they want more flexibility and value,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. “NBCUniversal is perfectly positioned to offer a variety of choices, due to our deep relationships with advertisers and distribution partners, as well as our data-targeting capabilities. Advertising continues to be a major part of the entertainment ecosystem and we believe that a streaming service, with limited and personalized ads, will provide a great consumer experience.”

For now, Comcast/NBCUniversal will retain a 30% ownership in the Hulu venture.

Comcast Introduces $5.99/mo Service to Protect Your Devices from Hackers

Phillip Dampier January 10, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 1 Comment

Comcast internet customers have a new add-on option – xFi Advanced Security, an “artificial intelligence” security package designed to identify and block Wi-Fi intrusions and hack attacks on Internet of Things (IoT) equipment like lights, thermostats, smart meter apps, Wi-Fi equipped home appliances, security cameras, doorbells, voice enabled personal assistants, and garage door openers.

Comcast will sell the package for $5.99 a month (except for xFi Advantage customers, who get Advanced Security included at no additional cost), based on claims that hacker attacks on IoT devices are up 600% from 2016-2017.

xFi Advanced Security provides an added layer of protection for your entire network by preventing you from inadvertently accessing malicious sites, blocking remote access to smart devices from unknown or dangerous sources and monitoring activity in real time to detect when devices are behaving in unusual ways that could indicate a network threat.

Whenever a threat is detected, it’s automatically blocked and you are notified in xFi and given tips on how to resolve.

“As the digital world gets more complex, we wanted to make it simple and easy for our customers to protect their home networks. That’s why we developed xFi Advanced Security,” said Fraser Stirling, senior vice president of digital home, devices and AI for Comcast. “We want to give customers digital peace of mind for the devices they already own and the confidence to expand and evolve their connected homes knowing that every new camera, voice-assisted speaker or smart thermostat they add will be protected.”

Comcast Invades: New Hampshire Cities Latest to Get Cable Competition

Comzilla

Comcast is increasingly invading the territories of neighboring small cable operators, a rare move that could eventually trigger price wars and threaten the informal “gentlemen’s agreement” that has kept cable companies from directly competing with each other for decades.

In New Hampshire, residents of Laconia and Rochester will have a choice between incumbent Atlantic Broadband or newcomer Comcast. 

Comcast is already the dominant cable operator in the state, providing service in 104 communities. The cable company recently filed its draft franchise proposal with Laconia city officials to extend Comcast service into areas already serviced by Atlantic Broadband, an independent cable operator owned by Montréal based Cogeco.

“We believe Laconia offers attractive opportunities for Xfinity and Comcast business products in an area close to Comcast’s existing footprint and part of the same designated market area we already serve,” said Comcast regional spokesman Marc Goodman. “We offer internet speeds of up to two gigabytes per second and 100 gigabytes for businesses. We have an award-winning video platform with voice remote.”

It is the second time Comcast announced it would directly compete with Atlantic in New Hampshire. Comcast is already overbuilding Atlantic’s service area in Rochester and is scheduled to finish sometime next year.

In response, Atlantic has introduced very competitive service and pricing plans to fend off Comcast.

Atlantic Broadband is trying to lock in their customers with two-year rate guarantees and lower introductory prices.

Consumers are thrilled.

“After years of MetroCast’s dark ages of bad service, Atlantic Broadband bought them up, raised some internet speeds, and raised our bill even more,” said Charlie Saunders. “It is real easy to pay a $200 cable bill around here, so I am glad Comcast is giving us a choice.”

Atlantic Broadband, at least in public, seems unfazed about Comcast’s entry. Ed Merrill, Atlantic Broadband’s regional general manager for New Hampshire and Maine stressed his company’s innovations, such as bringing gigabit internet speed to the region and using TiVo set top boxes. 

“Our plans are based not on what other providers are doing, but by anticipating customer needs and preferences, then developing and delivering the kinds of products and services that will make customer lives better, whether they’re residential customers or business clients with customers of their own,” Merrill said in a statement.

Comcast Invasion: Communities Where Consumers Can Also Choose Comcast as Their Cable Company

  • Dec. 2017: Rochester, N.H. (Atlantic Broadband vs. Comcast)
  • May 2018: Waterford and New London, Conn. (Atlantic Broadband vs. Comcast)
  • Summer 2018: Warwick Township, Warwick Borough, Ephratah Township, Ephratah Borough and Lititz, Penn. (Blue Ridge Communications vs. Comcast)
  • Nov. 2018: Laconia, N.H. (Atlantic Broadband vs. Comcast)

Grove

Comcast said it is only responding to the public’s demand for more choice and better service, which explains why it is expanding into territories already served by another operator. But so far, Comcast has only chosen to expand in areas adjacent to its current territory, and only in places served by smaller, independent cable companies. In short, Comcast is in no hurry to run cable lines into areas served by Charter/Spectrum or Cox.

A Multichannel News article on the subject suggests Comcast’s real interest is reaching lucrative commercial/business customers just out of reach of their existing service areas. 

“I can tell you that our primary focus is on business service expansion where from time-to-time we explore new opportunities, based on a case-by-case analysis, to bring our state-of-the-art products and services to more businesses,” Bob Grove, vice president of communications for Comcast told the trade magazine. “Some of our existing customers in the contiguous footprint and shared DMA have operations in this area, which is why it made sense for us to expand our commercial network here. We’re also exploring limited residential opportunities, but that’s in the very preliminary stages as well.”

“My heart and wallet skipped a beat,” Lennart Swenson, Jr., told The Laconia Daily Sun. “When we had Comcast, at our last home, they provided superior service and more options for less money than Atlantic Broadband. Comcast was also easier to contact and provided quicker service than has been our experience with Atlantic.”

Some customers also complain Atlantic lures people with temporary teaser rates that exponentially increase after introductory pricing expires. Others report it is difficult to get a representative on the phone.

Competition is “tiresome” for the cable industry

Comcast’s growing interest in expanding service into already-cabled areas means the company will have to convince customers to switch cable providers, something that runs contrary to traditional cable industry economics, where companies carefully avoid direct competition with each other.

“When I started in this business, we all helped each other,” former Buford Media CEO Ben Hooks told Multichannel News. Buford retired in 2018 after a 50-year career in the cable industry. “You don’t see that, especially with Comcast. As far as they’re concerned, there’s them and there’s the rest of the industry.”

Hooks remembers the 1970s and 1980s when cable companies did attempt to expand into each other’s territory.

“In most cases overbuilds were a disaster,” Hooks said. “Neither party won very much, both were fighting for the same customer, cutting prices and neither company was doing well. It was just a tiresome battle.”

But as costs plummet to less than $500 per home to extend fiber to the home service, and the costs to provide internet service continue to fall, cable companies like Comcast can afford the risk of upsetting smaller operators. 

“A company today like Comcast has so much more margin/size over a small company that if they want to expand into an adjacent territory, it is no contest,” Hooks told the trade publication. “Now, if they were to take on Charter, the competition would be a greater challenge. While Comcast still has the advantage, Charter is large enough that it would be ugly.”

Happy Holidays from Comcast: Your Bill is Going Up!

Phillip Dampier November 27, 2018 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 2 Comments

Comcast’s Cyber Monday promotions failed to include in its advertised prices up to $31.25 in monthly surcharges.

Comcast will use two mandatory surcharges to hike cable TV customers’ rates on Jan. 1, including those on promotional or fixed contract pricing, while also raising the optional modem rental fee to a record $13 a month — a new industry high.

  • Broadcast TV Surcharge (varies per market) will increase to $10.00 a month.
  • Regional Sports Network Fee (varies per market) will increase to $8.25 a month.
  • Most customers will see an increase of about $3.75 a month for cable television.
  • The modem rental fee, shown on the bill as “Internet/Voice Equipment Rental” will increase $2, to $13 a month.

Cord Cutters News first reported the rate increases. Ars Technica noted Comcast raised the broadcast TV fee from $6.50 to $8 and the sports fee from $4.50 to $6.50 about one year ago, making these two mandatory surcharges a lucrative source for extra revenue. Comcast does not waive these fees (or future increases) for its cable TV customers, even those on new customer promotions. The company boosted modem rental fees $1 a month in 2017. Now it wants an extra $2, but customers can easily avoid that fee by buying their own cable modem, which will quickly pay for itself.

Comcast typically raises rates in different cities over the course of a year, so only some customers will experience the rate increase on Jan. 1, but by the end of 2019, all Comcast customers will see a higher bill.

The use of surcharges to implement hidden rate increases is controversial. Comcast and other cable companies can and do advertise their services without including increasingly steep surcharges and fees, which can dramatically raise the bill far beyond what companies advertise.

A typical Comcast customer offered a 2018 Cyber Monday bundle of television and internet, advertised for as little as $49.99 a month, would pay an additional $31.25 a month in surcharges, not including an additional outlet service fee if a customer wants to watch on one more than television set.

VIDEO: Dividing Lines – Dialed Back to Dial-Up in Rural America

From the producers of Dividing Lines:

The online world is no longer a distinct world. It is an extension of our social, economic, and political lives. Internet access, however, is still a luxury good. Millions of Americans have been priced out of, or entirely excluded from, the reach of modern internet networks. Maria Smith, an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard Law School, created Dividing Lines to highlight these stark divides, uncover the complex web of political and economic forces behind them, and challenge audiences to imagine a future in which quality internet access is as ubiquitous as electricity.

This is the first part of a series being deployed by organizations and community leaders across the country, from San Francisco to Nashville to Washington, D.C., in an effort to educate stakeholders and catalyze policymaking that elevates the interests of the people over the interests of a handful of corporations.

The fight for rural broadband in Tennessee pits a publicly owned electric utility against Comcast and AT&T and their allies in the state legislature. (5:25)

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  • Bill Callahan: Windstream has our house in rural Ashtabula County, OH on its list of addresses that were upgraded (in 2016) with its $175 million in CAF II subsidies...
  • EJ: Charter we appreciate your concern in this manner. We value your complaint and will review it. If need be we send this to arbitration to review the co...
  • Dylan: You could use their router which is an extra $5 a month (a great router usually) or I would recommend looking around either on Amazon or somewhere for...
  • Sean: It is hard to imagine a company with worse customer service than Directv.....as a caretaker for someone who has an account with them and has been a c...
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  • Mel Toadvine: Your articles are correct. Nobody can advertise an antenna that will pick up cable and satellite channels because it is absolutely impossible. These a...
  • Dylan:  It’s $66 a month after all promotions are over with; flat rate, no taxes. Here is the rate card for all pricing and billing information. https://www...
  • Patrick: I am in Rochester NY. Does anyone know the cost of Spectrum 100mbps Internet service (no bundle, just internet) including taxes, after the first year...
  • Dylan: More hogwash once again. We all know data caps and usage based billing helps no one and does not “lower” bills for lower usage customers. That’s not h...
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