CenturyLink is the latest legacy internet and cable television provider to roll out a version of a virtual cable package. CenturyLink Stream has just launched and it's an interesting alternative to older rivals such as Sling TV, Playstatio Vue and DirecTV Now.
CenturyLink Stream offers a base package of channels for $45, with a $5 monthly savings if you already get your broadband through the company. There are also a number of add-on programming tiers, ranging from lesser family-oriented channels to additional sports and Spanish-language networks. Customers can also subscribe to a 26-channel package of Spanish-language news, entertainment and sports channels for $15 per month.
The $45 programming package includes a good selection of familiar channels, including channels from Disney (Disney, Disney Jr, Disney XD, Freeform and multiple ESPN channels), NBCUniversal (Bravo, E!, USA, Syfy, Sprout, MSNBC, CNBC), Scripps (Food, HGTV, Travel) and Discovery (Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, ID, Velocity). There are also networks from A&E and Hallmark, as well as a solid selection of sports networks.
But there are a couple of glaring omissions. Nothing from Viacom and none of the Turner Networks (TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network). Which makes the $45 monthly rate fair, but no great deal when compared to some of its OTT competitors.
CenturyLink Stream does include a cloud DVR function and TV Everywhere authentication for the ABC and ESPN apps. Customers can also stream up to three streams simultaneously. It is currently supported on Roku devices, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. It’s also playable on the CenturyLink player, a $90 Android-powered device manufactured by LG Electronics.
While the $45 price point might not lure a lot of existing "skinny cable" customers, I suspect it is primarily a way for CenturyLink to offer a cable TV package that is less labor and resource intensive than their Prism Cable TV. Prism is a direct competitor to traditional cable TV and it has struggled to find a place in the market. It's also been plagued by technical issues, including a lack of available bandwidth in CenturyLink homes.
At an investor event in February, CenturyLink CEO Glenn Post discussed the company's probable move into the virtual cable market. Among the reasons he gave for the move was that the roll-out costs were much less than with a traditional cable TV offering. "We have much wider availability due to lower bandwidth requirements of over-the-top. We have network-based storage for DVR. We’ll have local channels to help distinguish that product. But we have really deemphasized the Prism product because of the margin issue."
Charter is also currently testing Spectrum Stream, an IP-based skinny bundle. But Spectrum Stream is currently only available in markets currently serviced by Charter, while CenturyLink Stream will be available nationally.
AllYourScreens.com will have a full review of CenturyLink Steam on Monday, July 3rd.