Stream, the online TV viewing service Comcast Corp. began testing this summer, is now available across the Boston area.
Comcast began testing the $15-per-month service earlier this year in Boston as a way to woo customers who want to watch live network TV – particularly sporting events such as National Football League games – without buying a TV and signing up for a more expensive cable package, and it planned to roll it out locally late in the summer. But summer ended, and no rollout followed.
Marc Goodman, a Comcast spokesman, said the delays were due to technical changes the company made to make it easier for people to sign up for and quit the service online. It’s available for use through Comcast’s Xfinity TV app for mobile devices and for Web-browser viewing, and the company plans to deploy it nationally early next year.
Now, people in eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine can sign up for the service, which includes around 35 channels, including the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), the premium HBO service, local stations such as NECN, and Spanish-language stations Univision and Telemundo. A subscriber can stream to two devices at once and record two programs simultaneously. The big catch: Subscribers currently can use the service only with devices in their own home.
In July, Comcast executives said they were negotiating with the networks, and hoped to be able to stream shows to subscribers wherever they happened to be. On Wednesday, they offered no further updates on plans to allow viewing outside the home.
Stream is not as comprehensive as the online streaming options available to Comcast’s TV subscribers, who pay around $75 for its Internet Plus plan. Customers with its X1 box have long been able to stream any of their devices inside the house and watch recorded TV anywhere. Those customers also can watch more than 80 live channels, including ESPN, CNN, and NBC Sports, outside of their homes, according to Goodman.
For viewers wishing to stream movies and episodes of favorite shows without a cable subscription, options remain fragmented and confusing. Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and others allow viewers to watch shows on their television monitors, either directly or through a mobile device or computer. Customers also can sign up and pay for services individually from HBO, Netflix, CBS, and others. Sports fans can subscribe to whole league’s worth of games through services offered by the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL, but those are pricey.