It’s hard to get excited about a new streaming service that promises to compete with Netflix. Product announcements hit the news every month promising better picture quality, bigger content libraries and lower prices. Amazon, Hulu, and Dish/Blockbuster have all launched supposed Netflix killers, but the only company that seems to be able to do real damage to Netflix is Netflix itself (Qwickster, anyone?).
Comcast announced Tuesday that they’ve entered the fray with their new streaming service, Xfinity Streampix. Like Netflix, Xfinity Streampix will stream TV and movies on TV sets and wireless-enabled devices. There’s some potential here, as media giant Comcast has already announced content partnerships with Disney, Warner Bros, and Sony. And in case you missed the last season of 30 Rock, Comcast bought NBC Universal, giving the cable company unfettered access to a huge library of highly desirable content.
But here’s the rub. To get Xfinity Streampix, you have to be a Comcast subscriber, which means you have to live in a Comcast zone and pay for cable TV through the company. If you’re a “triple play” subscriber (meaning you have internet, land-line phone (!?) and cable through Comcast), the service is free. If you just have cable, Streampix is $5. But what if you don’t have Comcast or you don’t live in a Comcast zone? Then you’re out of luck, because Streampix won’t be available at all to non-subscribers, and Comcast has no plans to expand the service beyond the reach of its cable footprint.
So what’s the real reason Comcast developed Streampix? It’s likely that Xfinity Streampix was actually designed as a stopgap measure, meant to deter potential cord-cutters and reward loyal customers. It’s also possible that Comcast is trying to increase demand for its cable service in regions where it competes with satellite providers like Dish and DirecTV, or phone giants AT&T and Verizon.
Ultimately, while Streampix might tempt a few satellite cable subscribers to switch to Comcast, it probably won’t convince those who’ve already cut the cord to reconsider cable, and it definitely won’t dethrone Netflix. If you’re looking for a real Netflix competitor, you’ll have to wait until later this year when Verizon and Redbox plan to debut their co-branded streaming service.