TV fans that have been clamoring for a la carte options in their programming purchases might be a small step closer to seeing their dreams become reality. Comcast is the first major cable company to offer HBO and HBO Go with a basic subscription that does not include a cable TV package, excluding channels and channel groups such as ESPN, Fox News and TNT. Their “Internet Plus” test group offers HBO and HBO Go alongside broadcast TV, video-on-demand, 20 or 25-Mbps broadband, and Comcast’s VOD service, Streampix. This limited-time offer isn’t available in all areas and is aimed at new residential customers. Hit the jump for more fine print details.
Variety reports that Comcast is testing the a la carte waters with their new “Internet Plus” packaging plan that includes HBO. The runaway success of HBO’s Game of Thrones series is driving a lot of attention to the pay channel, but the dollars don’t necessarily match up. The only legitimate way to watch Game of Thrones is to subscribe to an expensive cable programming package that also includes the HBO bundle, which is a lot of money to pay for folks who are only interested in watching the George R.R. Martin novel adaptation. However, there are many less stand-up ways to watch the series, leading to the swords-and-sandals epic becoming the spring’s most-pirated show. (The Oatmeal illustrates the moral quandary of whether or not to pirate the series more succinctly than I can.) That guilt may now fade for a select few viewers.
Here are a few more details on “Internet Plus”, per Variety:
The bundle is priced at $39.99 or $49.99 per month for 12 months (depending on market), which is $15 less than the starting price for bundles with Comcast’s expanded basic cable lineups. The price goes up to $69.95 monthly after the first year. The limited-time offer is being promoted across Comcast’s footprint to new residential customers, but may not be available in certain areas … Comcast insiders insist the marketing offer, which expires next Jan. 31 in some markets and July 31 in others, is just a trial and doesn’t presage a move toward pure a la carte. Indeed, part of the strategy is aimed at upgrading subscribers to cable TV tiers down the line.
However, this option is not a broadband-only streaming video plan, as subscribers must have a Comcast set-top installed. Furthermore, federal regulations prevent offering a cable channel like HBO without also offering broadcast networks. HBO execs also continue to downplay talks of offering HBO Go as a direct-to-consumer option. As an additional note, Variety mentions that “Netflix is in talks with Comcast and other other cable operators including Time Warner Cable and Cox about potential distribution deals that would include access to Netflix’s service through cable set-tops.”