Days before Apple announces an expanded plan to sell subscriptions for video services, Comcast has introduced Flex, a transmission platform aimed at wireless customers who have subscribed to the company's broadband Internet. Flex costs $ 5 per month and also comes with a transmission box that includes Netflix, Prime Video, HBO and other applications; You also get Comcast X1 voice remote control as part of the service. It launches March 26 for all Comcast Xfinity Internet customers across the country. CNBC originally reported that such a product would return in November.
Comcast is promoting that Flex brings together the content of these services into a single, integrated guide, where you can find something to see and then switch to the application to view. "Xfinity Flex comes with over 10,000 free movies and TV shows online, including live TV broadcast, ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more," the company said in its press release. . Customers can also link their Movies Anywhere account by linking it to their Xfinity login, and the Pandora and iHeartRadio music apps are also pre-installed on the device.
You will not find Sling TV, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now or Hulu with live TV on the Flex, so Comcast clearly avoids cable alternatives. There is not an app store that downloads what you want in this thing. It has the popular on-demand applications and may be able to stream live content, but if you want a suitable live TV, it seems that Xfinity is not the only real option.
The Flex hardware box is 4K and compatible with HDR. Customers can monitor their Comcast Wi-Fi network and also access smart devices in the home such as security cameras using Flex:
Xfinity Flex provides Xfinity Internet customers with some of these features, allowing them easy access to your entertainment, find your Wi-Fi password, see what devices are connected to your network, set up parental controls and even pause access to Wi-Fi on your home network. They can also use voice control to access camera jacks, arm or disarm the security system of their home and find their Xfinity mobile phone, all on the television.
And yes, Comcast says that Flex customers will be able to upgrade to a full digital cable package if they wish. You can choose one or two Flex boxes. Any transmission in Flex account for your monthly plan of Internet data.
What is the point of all this? Well, it seems that Comcast hopes that there are still consumers without a Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV or Chromecast, who will not mind paying $ 5 each month to rent their Flex Box, there is no installation fee, and that's enough. for your streaming entertainment needs. You can also rent or buy movies and TV shows if you run out of things to see with the applications to which you are already subscribed.
And since this integrated guide (with universal voice search) is basically taken from the X1 platform, Flex is not really an extra job for Comcast. The company says that it could eventually change the prices for the Flex platform or adjust what is part of the package. As it is, this seems like a difficult sale at $ 60 / year when a Roku will cost less money and is not a recurring rent. And you should use the xFi Gateway router if you want to try Flex first, otherwise it will not work.
The Comcast move comes before Apple's March 25 event, where the company is expected to start a bigger push to group video subscriptions and show part of their original programming. Flex will be available the next day.
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, Verge's parent company .