As we've noted previously, Comcast has enjoyed a little more resilience to the cord cutting threat than satellite TV and telco TV providers--thanks to its growing monopoly over broadband. As DSL users frustrated by lagging telco upgrades switch to cable to get faster speeds, they're often forced to sign up for cable and TV bundles they may not want (since standalone broadband is often priced prohibitively by intent). Of course that doesn't mean these users or stick around (or that they even actively use the cable subscription they pay for), but it has helped Comcast all the same.
There are some indications that advantage isn't helping as much now that we're seeing so many streaming services come to market. At least one Wall Street research firm predicts that Comcast's cord cutting defections will double this year, though those totals still remain modest (400,000) compared to the company's total number of pay TV (22.4 million) and broadband (25.5 million) subscribers.
In the hopes of slowing the slow but study climb in cable TV defections, Comcast has announced that it will soon begin bundling Netflix subscriptions with its existing services, in what it claims is a quest to provide "more choice, value and flexibility":
"Netflix offers one of the most popular on demand services and is an important supplement to the content offering and value proposition of the X1 platform,” said Sam Schwartz, Chief Business Development Officer, Comcast Cable. “Netflix is a great partner, and we are excited to offer its services to our customers in new ways that provide them with more choice, value and flexibility. The seamless integration of Netflix with the vast Xfinity entertainment library on X1 present a unique and comprehensive experience for customers."
There's no indication yet whether Comcast will sell Netflix at any kind of discount. Still, the move isn't likely to help Comcast stop what's become an obvious example of market evolution. Customers looking for actual "choice, value and flexibility" pretty consistently find that's not something they get from traditional cable, thanks in part to Comcast's relentless rate hikes and hidden fees. Since most of these customers are ditching cable due to having to pay $130 or more per month, even a discounted subscription to Netflix isn't likely to help.
Of course Comcast still has an ace up its sleeve: usage caps and overage fees. The company's slow and steady deployment of these arbitrary, unnecessary and punitive limits will allow Comcast to (ab)use a lack of broadband competition to not only counter reduced TV revenues by jacking up the price of broadband, but to punish customers who choose to wander outside of Comcast's walled gardens.
After all, Comcast's own streaming services don't count against the company's caps, while Netflix's service does. And should Comcast and the FCC survive legal challenges to the net neutrality repeal, there's not much to stop Comcast from using a lack of adult oversight on this front to brutal, anti-competitive advantage.
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