There were a couple of interesting developments for those of us in the 'how can we stream everything to all our things?' set of consumers.
Comcast, the frequently lamented cable powerhouse, revealed a new online streaming service to leverage some of the assets it picked up in its acquisition of NBC.
The offering, which includes access to past seasons of TV shows such as 30 Rock, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost and The Office as well as movies like Brokeback Mountain, Ocean’s Eleven and The Big Lebowski, will cost $4.99 per month when bundled with other Comcast video packages. It will also be included for free with many Xfinity “triple-play packages.”
Of course, anyone currently subscribing to Comcast might look at this and wonder, 'I'm expected to pay MORE money to these guys?!?'
That would include yours truly. Comcast is the only company who manages to charge me a different and increasing amount every month in maddeningly inconsistent ways. It's at the point where my wife and I always fight over whose turn it is to call and complain (because they seem to acknowledge their lack of transparency and discount appropriately with enough subtle threats against the health of their CSRs)
But still, let's put that aside and consider the new service with an open mind...
Content: Appears to be NBC shows, and those from other networks. 30 Rock and The Office included. I have to imagine this includes the whole back catalog and new episodes (thinking HBOGo but for NBC, right?). It'll also have movies, but the press release leads with Ocean's Eleven and the Big Lebowski...so this may be some more long tail stuff. Bottom line, forget the movies, if it has a good set of television shows, that may be a solid proposition, especially if they can keep it off other services
Access: The article indicates we'll be able to get Streampix (which honestly sounds more like an porn website than a mainstream content offering, but let's set aside that for a minute) on multiple devices. You can get it on the iPad and the internet, which is a good start. They also report they'll expand availability to things like Xbox, which could be nice, but honestly all this stuff will also be available on Comcast Video on Demand. This wouldn't be a big deal except you need to subscribe to Comcast cable to even get this service, so I can't see anyone who would want to use an alternative TV hookup like a Roku or Xbox, unless they just detest Comcast's Video on Demand interface (which I'd agree with).
Price: $5/month, which certainly is at a good point relative to Netflix and other offerings. But really, since it's only available to Comcast subscribers, I'm still trying to reconcile who will want to bump up their bill a little more just to get 30 Rock on their iPad. Maybe traveling professionals like me, but we'll see how many more people like that are out there.
The other more interesting development comes out of the Netflix camp, which must've felt a little slighted at Comcast's attention for Streampix.
Netflix is discussing a partnership with former HBO Films president Colin Callender to produce original content, including mini-series and movies, for the online video service, according to three people with knowledge of the talks who are not authorized to speak about them publicly.
Netflix has already publicly identified HBO as their true competition, and this makes the comparison all the more apt. Netflix has continued to push the development of original content for their platform, including their new series about a hitman in Norway, Lilyhammer.
Hiring a former head of HBO, it's hard not to envision the company trying to recreate an HBO environment that created award winning programming and built it into the first premium channel to really move onto customers' 'must-have' lists.
Heck, for me, Netflix has already picked up the new episodes of Arrested Development, so they've already shoved me across the 'must-have' threshold.
If they can actually pick up some more valuable content, or manage to develop anything worth seeing on their own, people will start to have to have it (Imagine if it followed AMC's path and had Mad Men/Breaking Bad/Walking Dead. That's absolutely worth $7/month)
Meanwhile, HBO does have a killer streaming service.
HBO Go is fantastic, to anyone who hasn't been able to use it. The interface isn't terrible, and it has a complete library of tons of shows. I used it last week to re-watch some old Season 3 Wire episodes while my wife simultaneously DVR'd Grey's Anatomy and something else that was obviously better than Grey's Anatomy.
Now, HBO remains hesitant to go full-bore after the streaming market, and it's no question why. One hint, the streaming market's still very very tiny relative to the regular cable market. There are far more regular subscribers than streamers, and given Netflix's price point, it's hard to imagine HBO being able to charge it's current cable price ($17/month at Comcast) for a standalone streaming service.
But if Netflix, Redbox/Verizon, and any others gain ground with the development of original content, they'll quickly force customers to choose a couple streaming channels vs. a couple premium cable channels (or a sports package, or expanded basic).
If they can build good content, then the economics for HBO offering a standalone streaming service (and others like Showtime) will start to change quickly.
It looks like HBO won't be caught with it's pants down. So they're already one up on Blockbuster, the last company Netflix efficiently destroyed.