Apple’s first event of the year is just a mere days away. With all the rumors and speculation surrounding the highly anticipated streaming video service, everyone’s favorite cable provider decided to hop in on the news cycle.
Comcast, today, announced their upcoming streaming TV service “Xfinity Flex.” The service, which is scheduled to officially launch on 26 March, is targeted at non-cable customers of Comcast/Xfinity. For $5/month, subscribers will get an Xfinity-branded set-top box (preloaded with Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Prime Video), and the Xfinity X1 remote.
According to Comcast, there are a couple key selling points of Flex, aside from it’s low price tag. First is that it offers 4K streaming of available 4K content. Secondly is that users will have a centralized guide that can show them content from all of their streaming platforms, as well as from Comcast’s library of on-demand programming, and a selection of live streaming channels.
While Flex is an interesting concept, it’s nothing like the streaming set-top boxes we’ve grown used to with Apple TV, Roku, or Fire TV. There are no other streaming TV apps like SlingTV or YouTube TV, and there’s no App Store to add to the available content. Instead, the Flex streaming box is more like a traditional cable box without the cable snaking into the back.
It’s also worth noting that the $5/month fee is strictly for access to the Xfinity on-demand streaming catalog of 10,000+ shows and the rental of the Flex hardware. Subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and the rest will still be required to use those features.
The Flex hardware is also limited by the Xfinity router in your home, requiring the xFi Gateway to provide the service. This means Comcast customers with older routers or customer-owned equipment won’t be able to use the product. Customers of other internet providers are also excluded. Comcast has also confirmed that any streaming done on Flex is count toward your monthly data allotment.
If Comcast’s hope was to take on Apple TV and any kind of upcoming “Video” streaming service, they’ve sent the most rudimentary version into the ring. For $60/year (on top of your internet package), the product offers very little that can’t be done on offerings from nearly every streaming set-top box maker.
Apple is expected to launch their streaming TV subscription service on Monday. Rumors indicate the service may launch with a strong line-up of curated and original programming, as well as some key partnerships with other television networks and providers. Comcast’s service launches the following day, if Apple’s offering turns out to be a bust.