With Comcast shedding customers due to cord cutting, they are trying to lure some of them back with a new service called Xfinity Instant TV. The service is their version of their traditional cable offering streamed over the internet similar to YouTube TV, DirectTV Now, SlingTV, and Hulu Live TV. There is a 30-day free trial, but you have to be an Xfinity broadband customer to sign up for the service.
The first strike against the service was that I couldn’t even access it with my main streaming device. My main streaming devices are HTPC’s I built that run on Linux. When I went to watch a program I got the message that only Windows 8, Windows 10, and Roku were supported. While Xfinity does claim that smartphones and tablets are supported, there is no support for AppleTV or Amazon Fire. If you stream content through the popular Amazon Fire Stick, you won’t be able to access the service. After plugging in my Roku Express and installing their Xfinity streaming app, which is still in beta, I was able to get to the service.
Strike two was actually finding out what you actually get. In their initial promotional emails, you actually had to sign up to see what was included in the service. Since then, they have clarified what the additional packages are and the price, but not exactly what channels the base package provides. I can actually understand this. Different geographical regions will have different local channels. At $18 a month, and a 30-day free trial, I took the plunge to see if it was a good deal.
What you get for $18 a month is what is broadcast locally over the air that you can get with an antenna for free. Additionally, the quality of the signal was sometimes poor, probably due to the fact that Comcast, like every other service provider, compresses the signal.
This might be good for you if you don’t have an antenna or are in an area where TV reception is hard to get. Personally, I get the all the stations that I really need plus a few others with my antenna at a better quality.
You can add what they call “channel packs” to the package, for an additional monthly fee of course. The Kids and Family pack runs an additional $10 a month and includes:
- Disney Jr.
- Disney XD
- Nick Jr.
- Cartoon Network
- National Geographic
- Universal Kids
The Entertainment pack costs $15 a month more and includes:
- Comedy Central
- Food Network
- Animal Planet
- History Channel
- TV One Represent
The Sports & News package runs an additional $30 a month more.
- ESPN 2
- ESPN U
- ESPN News
- FOX News
- FOX Business
- FS 1
- NFL Network
- NBC SN
- the local regional sports network in your area
If you were to get all the channel packages the monthly bill climbs from $18 a month all the way to $73 a month, not including any other fees like the RSN fee. To put is bluntly, you can get comparable service from any other streaming provider for less.
Strike three, and to be fair this may only apply to me, I found it difficult to navigate their program guide. Finding what I wanted turned out to be a chore. For instance, say I wanted to watch a program on channel 32, which is the local Fox affiliate. Using my antenna, I change the TV channel to 32 and I get the program in HD. Using the Xfinity Instant TV Service, I turn to channel 32 and I get Cartoon Network. Not what I wanted. In my area if I want to watch channel 32 on Xfinity, I have to turn to channel 12. Only channel 12 isn’t in HD. For that, I have to go to channel 1032. If I didn’t know that (and I didn’t!) I’d have to look it up in their guide or scroll all the way there. Major hassle.
I ended up cancelling the service before the 30-day trial was over which was another hassle, although not a big one. There is a link in your Xfinity account to cancel the service. Clicking on it brought up a message saying that there was a problem cancelling the account and instructed me to call a customer service rep. It really wasn’t that much of a hassle, but the process could have been easier. I am sure that had I been cancelling the entire account I would have gotten one of their “retentions specialists”. The rep I got only asked why I was cancelling and helped me through their bureaucratic cancellation process.
In conclusion, this service might be good for you if:
- You are an Xfinity broadband subscriber
- Have a Roku or Windows PC
- You only want to watch broadcast TV
Everybody else should stay far, far away.