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Comcast's HBO Package May Be A Tiny Nod Towards Unbundling

A new Internet, HBO, and local TV package from Comcast has all sorts of implications. If you let yourself hope.

Comcast's HBO Package May Be A Tiny Nod Towards Unbundling

[Image: Flickr user Matthew Hurst]

Comcast has just revealed a package that may, just possibly, hint at a more flexible future for HBO fans.

The cable provider has a new deal for customers it's calling "Internet Plus," and though it's bare bones, it offers three attractive things in one go: Broadband Internet, local TV channels, and HBO! No other bells or whistles or unwanted sports channels—and it's just $40 a month (for the first 12 months). Subscribers also get access to 300,000 hotspots and access to HBO on the go with the Xfinity apps—which include some on demand content.

HBO is really, really resistant to the idea of selling you its content directly or without some kind of cable channel package as a wrapper. In the 21st century of digital media, this is the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears, shutting your eyes, and shouting "lalalalala!" And until now, there hasn't been much consumers can do about it.

So is this an unbundling? Not quite, because you are still tied to a contract that lasts many months. But thanks to the streaming Internet TV portions, the new Comcast package is approaching some of the more free-form digital streaming TV services that are becoming more normal in Europe. There's no sea change here, yet, but we may be seeing a few ripples.