Commentary: After subscribing to Comcast cable television and broadband internet in some form or another for about the past 20 years, I finally cut the cord two weeks ago. Even the customer service rep on the other end of the phone said, “Wow, you’ve been with us a long time,” when I called to shut everything down.
Much like that service rep did on the phone as he rattled off deals to try to keep me around, Comcast today announced a new play to try to win people like me back. It’s only been two weeks! They clearly miss my $200 a month.
Comcast’s new Xfinity Flex streaming platform lets its internet-only customers pay $5 a month for a 4K HDR-ready connected box that will allow them to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services. It’s similar to devices such as Roku or Fire TV, but Flex also comes with more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows, and some live streaming TV from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube, and more, the company said in a news release. It features voice control and access to music apps such as Pandora and iHeartRadio.
But the Xfinity Flex isn’t going to cut it, and uncut my Comcast cord.
In the interest of full disclosure, I once enjoyed a sweet deal with Comcast. As an employee of NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast, I got pretty-close-to-free cable TV and internet for a few years. When NBC cut my cord and decimated a once-vibrant Seattle-based news organization in msnbc.com, I stuck with Comcast services because I didn’t want the hassle of switching providers and putting a dish on the side of my house.
This was all before streaming became such a mainstream way of consuming video content. As I added Apple TV and Xbox and two new smart TVs with Roku built-in, I grew less and less attached to the hardware associated with Xfinity’s service.
Then CenturyLink came to my neighborhood with 1G fiber internet.
Then I joined a family plan for YouTube TV. Live sports! And “Jeopardy” during dinner!
The avalanche of service and entertainment options overwhelmed any need I had to continue paying more than $200 a month. Even with my Netflix subscription and HBO Now and Hulu, I’ve cut my combined TV and internet bill in half.
I’m clearly not alone, and I’m totally late to this group of consumers who are making cable companies nervous. Engadget reported Thursday that online video services overtook cable for total subscriptions in 2018 as more people switch to streaming.
Of course, Xfinity Flex customers will soon be able to easily upgrade to the full Xfinity X1 cable service right from the box’s integrated guide, to gain access to hundreds of live channels — and that higher monthly bill that reminds you why you cut the cord in the first place!
“Xfinity Flex will deepen our relationship with a certain segment of our internet customers and provide them with real value,” Comcast executive Matt Strauss said in a statement. “For just five dollars a month, we can offer these customers an affordable, flexible, and differentiated platform.”
I would almost pay $5 a month to relive that feeling of getting out from under a big cable TV and internet bill. After 20 years I finally flexed and got rid of Comcast. And I’m pumped.