App Review: Comcast’s Xfinity Stream
At the end of February, Comcast released the latest version of its streaming TV app, known as Xfinity Stream. The app enables Comcast customers to watch live TV and XFINITY On Demand on any device at home or on the go. Moreover, for X1 Cloud DVR customers, you can also stream or download your Cloud DVR recordings to your device and watch anywhere you go.
In many ways, then, what Comcast has done is open up the full power and potential of live streaming TV for the cable company’s on-the-go customer. If you have one of those X1 set-top boxes in your home, then you’ve just been given a lot more freedom to watch television when and how you want. Unlike the previous form of Comcast’s streaming TV app (known as Xfinity TV), this version makes it a lot easier to take cable TV content with you just about everywhere.
So why are Comcast customers not so enthusiastic about the new app? The website Android Police tracked down customer reviews of the app and found that there were three major complaints:
- A lack of local channels when outside of your home Wi-Fi network
- The lack of casting ability, such as what you can do with Google Chromecast
- The lack of Android TV compatibility
Of these, by far the one mentioned most by fans was the inability to watch local channels outside of their home Wi-Fi network. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal – if you’re already getting top networks like CNN, Fox, NBC, ESPN, BBC World News and The Disney Channel, why would you possibly care about local networks?
There’s a one-word answer to that question: sports. Say you’re a big Philadelphia Flyers fan and you like to watch their NHL hockey game each night on TV, and then you have to travel for business. The expectation is that you’d be able to pack your tablet into your carry-on bag, toss in your Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, and then when you get to the local hotel where you’re staying, watch the game on the hotel TV (even if you’re hundreds of miles away)
But here’s the thing — you can’t “cast” the game to the hotel TV since there’s no casting ability involved. And, secondly, you can’t get the local network anyway, and so unless the game is a nationally televised game, you’re probably not getting the Philly game in another market.
So let’s back up a second. What exactly are you getting access to with the Xfinity Stream app? Here’s a brief overview of what you can, in fact, get with the app:
- Thousands of Xfinity On Demand TV shows and movies
- 200+ live streaming channels from anywhere you have Internet
Of these 200+ live streaming channels, approximately 50 of them are from Music Choice, meaning they are essentially music channels and not “real” cable networks. But, among the other 150 or so channels, you do get access to some of the real biggies – like ESPN, CNN and Disney. Essentially, you get the biggest and most important cable networks, and you get a nice choice of sports channels, including NBC Sports and Fox Sports. So you really can’t complain too much.
In addition, there are a few other extras added in to sweeten the Xfinity Stream app. You get a Spanish Guide, as well as Common Sense content ratings for anything you’re going to stream. You also get an option to filter your channels by favorites, to make it easier to find what you want. And, of course, you get a schedule of what’s on at any moment and all those music channels.
The basic idea is to replicate your home viewing experience anywhere you go. That’s why it’s so important that you get access to your X1 Cloud DVR — after all, it makes no sense to record so much great content if you can’t watch it when you want and where you want. But, with the new Xfinity Stream app, you get access to anything you’ve previously recorded. The content is in “the cloud,” so it’s yours for the asking. This marks an upgrade from previous Comcast app experiences, where it wasn’t always possible to access your DVR content if you were outside of your home Wi-Fi network.
Overall, it’s clear that Comcast has tried to listen to its customers. And it’s read the writing on the wall from the other streaming TV providers — if Comcast wasn’t going to provide streaming TV to its customers, then someone else was going to. This Xfinity Stream app will also be the new home for the company’s Stream TV service, which will be rebranded when it launches nationwide later in 2017. (Stream TV was an add-on service for Comcast customers to watch shows from a limited number of TV networks on their tablet, laptop or smartphone).
And Comcast obviously wants people to use the new app. They’ve made it possible so that the old Xfinity TV app automatically updates to Xfinity Stream on your iOS or Android device. They realize that people don’t care as much about being able to stream just within their home Wi-Fi network — they want to stream everywhere they go. The thinking of customers is the following: “I’m paying a huge sum of money each month to get Comcast content, and it’s not fair if I don’t have 24/7 access to it.”
So you can think of the new Xfinity Stream app as the new home for all mobile video from Comcast. It’s your one-stop destination for getting all streaming TV shows or films, all live streaming networks and all Cloud DVR content. There’s simply not a better app experience for Comcast users.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a better app experience, period. In fact, if there’s one thing that we can look forward to in 2017, it’s the continued emergence of bigger, better and more impressive streaming TV options. Comcast wants to hold onto its hard-won cable customers, and every other streaming service wants to poach them away. The good news for streaming fans (and Comcast customers) is that the dream of ubiquitous live streaming content wherever you go is quickly becoming a reality.