Comcast launches subscription movie service

The cable TV provider's Xfinity Streampix is designed to give Web access to its films and TV shows, following HBO Go's lead in competing with Netflix.

Comcast announced a new subscription video-on-demand service today that will provide "out of home" access via the Web.

Comcast has named the new service Xfinity Streampix. The cable company's strategy to compete against Netflix, the Web's No. 1 video rental service, has obviously been influenced by HBO.

Streampix is designed to enhance Comcast's existing service, Xfinity, by offering users a broader selection of movies and TV shows. Variety, the Hollywood trade magazine, first reported the story.

HBO Go, the Internet service that enables HBO subscribers to access every episode of the company's past and present shows online, has become a model for cable companies trying to compete online.

Streampix "enables Xfinity video customers to instantly view favorite movies and TV shows in and out of the home," Comcast said in a statement. The TV shows offered include "numerous past seasons of current hit shows and full series."

This is a smart move, as it hits Netflix where it is weakest now: its video-streaming selection. Exclusive licensing deals have locked Netflix out of acquiring the latest movies from five of the six top Hollywood film studios. While Netflix managers have seen rapid growth (gaining more than 24 million subscribers), they have struggled of late to keep the streaming library fresh.

With Netflix customers grumbling about the lack of new titles, Comcast can tell customers, "Hey, the other guy might help you save some money, but is there anything there you want to see?"

Conversely, Comcast's offer isn't without its shortcomings.

A Comcast subscriber must either be a member of one of the company's triple-play packages (high-speed Web, video, phone, etc.), or pay an additional $5 a month for Streampix.

That extra $5 may be the service's Achilles' heel. When it comes to price, Netflix's basic streaming service is far less expensive than any of the U.S. cable offerings.

Comcast said Streampix will be available on multiple Web-connected devices, including smart TVs.

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