Is Comcast getting into Netflix's business?
It's a tempting argument, given Comcast's launch this week of Xfinity Streampix, a service for streaming TV reruns and old movies. That sounds an awful lot like Netflix's bread-and-butter. Both companies have 20 million-plus subscribers and would love to cannibalize each other's viewers.
But Streampix and Netflix are fundamentally different plays. Streampix is currently offered only to Comcast customers, and its main purpose, if I read the news right, is to prevent churn — subscribers flying to services like, well, Netflix. That's a legitimate worry, since Comcast's subscriber numbers are trending down.
Netflix sells its service to anybody, and while its certainly worried about losing subscribers (remember how it lost a few million after its snafus last year?) it doesn't link its $8-a-month streaming service to a gargantuan cable package like Comcast's roughly $140 per cable sub.
Comcast actually has the nerve to charge current TV subscribers $5 a month for Streampix if they don't get Comcast's cable-TV-Internet bundle. This for a service that has far fewer titles than Netflix. Why would even a Comcast subscriber consider it if all they're saving is $3 a month?
Meanwhile, Netflix is busily adding to its own programming, such as a multi-year deal with the Weinstein Co. to stream movies such as "The Artist", and original programming such as "Lillyhammer" and five other shows in the works, according to the L.A. Times.
The upshot: Netflix is still playing offense and Comcast is playing rather shoddy defense. If I were Reed Hastings, I wouldn't be losing too much sleep.