Friday, October 25, 2013

Comcast's new Internet Plus plan bundles broadband, HBO, targets Netflix

The starkly worrisome news that Netflix now has more subscribers than HBO apparently hasn't caught the cable industry by surprise. Speaking to DSL Reports on Thursday, an anonymous insider said that Comcast is preparing a new broadband and HBO streaming bundle that directly targets Netflix.

Although DSL Reports said that it was not clear if the new option would be available in every Comcast market, adding that the package was due "to launch" this month, The Verge said it confirmed availability of the option -- already -- in parts of Northern California with a price of $39.99. We also confirmed this pricing, as noted in the screenshot above.

That apparently doesn't include the San Francisco Bay Area, as we were unable to see the package in our account as an option. A chat with service representatives, though, said that the plan itself was available, but not at the promotional price.

Comcast's new Internet Plus service includes Limited Basic TV (20 channels plus VOD), Comcast's streaming video service StreamPix, 25 Mbps broadband and HBO/HBO GO. There is no requirement, the agent said, to add voice or additional TV services to your account to access it. Thus, it could be a significant savings for those, like us, that subscribe to Comcast for broadband only. We could, for example, cut out HBO from our satellite, and still get Comcast broadband, all for about the same price as broadband only.

DSL Reports source said the price of the option would run $40 - $50 for the first 12 months, so it seems that part of the report is inaccurate. Again, that price is only promotional, and the report said that after 12 months the the promotional price jumps to $60 to $70 for six months, and the positively leaps to $70 to $80.

It's an interesting plan, and shows a reversal of course for HBO. The premium network has long said that it doesn’t want to hawk its wares directly to consumers, instead relying on cable companies to work as its sales force. Recently, though, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner, which is the parent company of HBO, brought up the idea of bundling HBO with broadband plans, saying it would be "an offer you (the consumer) can’t refuse.”

Bewkes made the statement at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York City in late September.

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