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Comcast unveils $5-a-month streaming service Xfinity Flex

Limited to Comcast's internet-service-only customers, it mimics the company's X1 cable experience but won't have live channels.

A screenshot of a homescreen for Xfinity Flex.

Comcast says its Xfinity Flex service will deliver a cablelike experience over the internet.  

Comcast

Comcast announced a $5-a-month streaming video service Thursday called Xfinity Flex, an offering that bundles a streaming box, a voice remote and a digital interface aggregating on-demand video from your subscriptions like Netflix Amazon Prime Video and HBO, as well as free ad-supported shows and options to rent or buy programming. 

It essentially replicates some of the elements Comcast's X1 cable video service but delivers it over the internet rather than... well, cable. But it won't have live channels or DVR, and it won't let you watch a live-TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Sling TV, keeping Flex squarely in the realm of on-demand viewing that's less threatening to Comcast's traditional -- and lucrative -- cable TV packages. 

The news comes just days before a high-profile Apple event, scheduled for Monday, where the gadget giant is expected to unveil its own video service. Apple's service is expected to include its own original content but also be designed as a central hub to sign up for and organize various video subscriptions. 

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Comcast, the biggest cable provider in the US, can push customers to "start thinking of the television as a digital display," Matt Strauss, the head of the company's Xfinity Services line of business, said on a conference call announcing the service. The service will integrate voice command by including the company's existing voice remote, as well as smart-home elements, like offering the ability to view security camera footage on the TV. 

The Internet is "becoming the center of gravity as we move more and more toward connectivity," Strauss said.

Xfinity Flex will run $5 a month on top of a Comcast customer's cost for internet service. It'll come with a 4K HDR streaming box and the company's voice remote. All the content on Flex will stream on the internet, but it's only available within Comcast's footprint to the company's internet customers. The service is set to launch Tuesday.

flex-xfi

Comcast's Xfinity Flex service includes a 4K streaming box. 

Comcast

"We see this as being more than a piece of hardware," Strauss said. The service's $5 fee is paying for an experience that provides a personalized guide, includes a continuing evolution of free content, enables you to control devices in your home, and comes with a streaming box and voice remote. 

Flex will let users watch content on free video services like YouTube and TubiTV, and it'll aggregate paid subscriptions to things like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO. It'll have movies and shows you can buy and rent individually, as well as 10,000 ad-supported free shows and movies.

It'll also offer music listening, pushing the TV to be more than a video-viewing device.