LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Comcast has found a new bundling model for pay TV: The cable giant is delivering an 80-channel package over Internet-based networks for free with the price of room and board for college kids, available across multiple devices.
The Xfinity On Campus service is designed to expose a younger generation -- which has a lower tendency to subscribe to cable TV and a higher proclivity to watch web video than their elders -- to the joys of Comcast's video services. The goal: to get them habituated to pay television so they'll want to subscribe after they graduate.
The service is included with the price of room and board for students this fall living in on-campus housing at five schools: Bridgewater College, Drexel University, Emerson College, Lasell College, and the University of Delaware. In addition, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire will be testing the program this fall.
Comcast has been kicking around the idea for a while: In 2011, it initiated a limited test a TV service at MIT, delivered over Internet protocols to different devices.
The operator is launching the service as growth in the U.S. pay-TV sector has plateaued. At the same time, millennials (ages 16-34) are less likely than non-millennials (35-64) to have a cable or satellite TV subscription: 13% of millennials say they have no pay TV, compared with 9% of the older cohort, according to a Verizon survey this spring of 1,000 consumers.
Another company serving multiscreen-TV to colleges is Philo (formerly Tivli), which provides about 30 live channels delivered from a school's primary pay-TV provider. Philo has deals with Harvard University, Yale University and Stanford University.
Xfinity On Campus offers around 80 live channels, including every major broadcast network as well as cable channels like AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX and MTV. Students also can access thousands of current-season TV shows and movies via Xfinity On Demand.
With Xfinity on Campus, students can watch live and VOD content on Internet-connected devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones while on campus. (If they happen to have a TV, they can plug that into the wall to watch cable, too.) Off-campus, they can use their university login to access online programming that's part of their subscription via TV Everywhere websites and apps such as WatchESPN and FXNow.
"Xfinity on Campus lets students watch TV on their own terms," said Marcien Jenckes, EVP of consumer services for Comcast Cable. "With this younger generation, more and more viewing is happening away from the traditional TV set and we have evolved our products and services to better engage them."
In addition to the basic service, students can upgrade to a selection of premium channels, including HBO, Showtime, Starz and a sports package that includes channels like ESPN Goal Line (a college-football whip-around channel). In the future, according to the MSO, the service will offer an option to upgrade to a cloud-based DVR service to record and watch programming and also "check-out" recordings by downloading them directly to the device to take on-the-go.