Comcast is the big boy in the neighborhood when it comes to pay television in the United States today. Currently, more than 24 million households have Comcast cable TV, and it doesn’t stop there for this media giant. Another 15 million homes rely on Comcast high speed internet, and an additional 6.5 million subscribe to the Comcast Digital phone service. A Fortune 100 company with more than 80,000 employess, Comcast defines “big cable” in America. How does Comcast compare with other options like DISH Network and DIRECTV? We will answer that question here in our detailed Comcast cable review.
Being the biggest cable television company in America certainly makes you a target, and Comcast is often in the crosshairs of both competitors and consumers. DIRECTV and DISH Network, the two biggest satellite TV companies often go after Comcast subscribers in their advertisements. But even more aggressive are the new kids on the block, Verizon and AT&T. These telecoms have introduced new technology to compete directly with Comcast and other cable television companies across America.
Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse are of particular concern to Comcast. Why? Because they can offer the customer triple play packages that have been the bread and butter of cable TV for more than 10 years. While satellite TV may have taken away the video subscriber, Comcast may have retained the high speed internet service that homeowners have come to depend on. With Fios or U-verse, the whole triple play bundle can be taken away, resulting in a $1,000+ per year loss of revenue for Comcast.
So with so much on the line, its no wonder that Comcast has been striving to both gain and retain subscribers in an extremely competitive market. Lets review Comcast services, and how they match up against their competitors.
Comcast Cable TV
Cable television service is the main product people are looking for when they are getting in touch with Comcast. The nice thing about Comcast cable is that as the largest cable company, they do offer some of the most advanced technology and plenty of SD an HD content. At this time, Comcast breaks their cable TV packages into three different tiers, which are Comcast Digital Starter, Comcast Digital Preferred, and Comcast Digital Premier. Comcast deals will get you into these packages at a reduced price if you are a new customer, or if you are returning from a competitor like DIRECTV.
For our Comcast review, we pulled prices from the Philidelphia, PA market, one of the largest serviced by the cable company and their corporate base. Pricing will be fairly close in the other big markets served by Comcast, which include Chicago, New Jersey, Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. You may want to check with your local provider for exact Comcast prices before signing up.
The Comcast Digital Starter package starts off at a price of $29.99 if ordered online, and that price will remain in effect for the first six months of service. After that, the price in the Philadelphia market goes up to $63.95 per month. Included here are 80 digital cable channels, and 45 commercial free music channels as well. Local channels are also included for your area, as well as all of the standard features like parental controls and on-screen programming guide. Access to Comcast On-demand is also included, which we will review further. This package would be comparable to something like the DIRECTV Choice package, which is $29.99 for one year, before jumping up to the regular price of $55.99 after the promotional period.
Next up is the Comcast Digital Preferred package. This bundle is $44.99 a month for the first six months, then will move up to the regular price of $78.95 a month. Digital Preferred adds about 20 channels to the Digital starter package, bringing the total to over 100. Add to that the 45 commercial free music stations and you will be at about 150 total stations. A comparable satellite package would be the DISH Network Classic Silver 200, which is regularly priced at $52.99 a month, or $62.99 a month with HD channels.
The all inclusive option from Comcast is the Digital Premier offer, which is $84.99 a month for the first six months of service. Here you will get everything in the Digital preferred bundle, plus all kinds of premium movie content. HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax are all here from Comcast, but not just one channel of each. You will get multiple feeds of these channels, plus their On-demand channels as well. Overall, more than 10,000 movies and shows are accessible through Comcast on-demand, so you won’t have any problem finding something to watch on cable TV. After the six month promotion, the regular price on this package is $129.05 a month. Comcast also includes their Sports Entertainment package in this bundle, which has the popular NFL RedZone channel as well as the Tennis Channel, CBS College Sports, the Fox Soccer channel and GOL TV.
Now as you can see from the review so far, Comcast prices are higher than what you can get from DIRECTV or DISH Network. So is Comcast worth it? Well there are some additional factors to consider when comparing Comcast vs DIRECTV or any other provider. Comcast charges $8.95 a month for HD access. Both DISH Network and DIRECTV charger $10 a month for high definition channel access. So if you don’t have an HDTV yet, either Comcast or satellite service will work as you can just leave off the HD access price. If you are an HD afficianado, then you might want to consider Comcast for a couple of reasons.
The first is the amount of HD content that may be available to you through Comcast. This part of the equation will require you to do a little research however. Comcast does not have the same number of HD channels across the country, in fact the numbers can vary wildly based on the area you live in. Some areas served by Comcast now have nearly 100 HD channels, while other only have between 30 and 50. The other reason to consider Comcast HD is the fact that your get free access to is the On demand setup, which may be more valuable to you rather than just looking at channels counts. If you just want HD channels, then Verizon Fios if available in your area, or the satellite TV option may be a better choice instead of Comcast.
Now for sports fans, you may want to closely compare Comcast vs DIRECTV before making your final decision. Why? Because while both Comcast and DIRECTV carry some sports packages, there are some exclusives to satellite TV that you may want to get. The NFL Sunday Ticket package is the main sports bundle that I am referring to here. Currently, the NFL has an exclusive deal with DIRECTV to air this package through the year 2014. So don’t expect to find Sunday Ticket on Comcast anytime soon. That being said, there are several other out of market sports packages that you can get through Comcast. These include the NBA League Pass, MLB Extra Innings, and the NHL Center Ice bundle. The ESPN Gameplan for both football and basketball are also available. Comcast has also finally hammered out a deal with the National Football League to carry the NFL Network, and you can also find the new NFL RedZone channel in the Comcast Sports Entertainment package.
Of course there is much more than cable television service these days, so our Comcast cable review continues with a look at the high speed internet options available.
Comcast High Speed Internet
Now depending on the area you live in, there are a few different levels of Comcast high speed internet service. It all depends on what upgrades have been done in your area as to whether all of these Comcast internet packages are available to you. Again, we will review the Comcast internet products available in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area to give you an overview of what kind of Comcast pricing is being charged.
Comcast Economy Internet access is the most basic option, and also the lowest price on an ongoing basis. Right now, the economy internet offer costs $24.95 a month, and there are not any promotional discounts as a new customer. This is a cable connection, so of course it does not tie up your landline if you have one, and this price is available to customers who already have Comcast digital cable and/or digital phone service. Speeds on this package top out at 1 Mbps downstream, and upload speeds are limited to 384 Kbps. While these speed are pretty slow compared to what is out there from DSL and cable, it is a good option for basic e-mail and web surfing if you don’t do a lot of downloads.
Comcast Performance Internet service is next up, and there is a promotional offer currently available here. For the first six months, Comcast subscribers can get this internet package for $19.99 a month, then it goes to the regular price of $42.95 per month. Download speeds with the Comcast performance internet go up to 15 Mbps with powerboost, and upload speeds reach 3 Mbps. McAfee security suite software, which is valued at $120 according to Comcast is also included.
Now if you telecommute, or just use the internet for bandwidth intensive activities, then you may want to consider one of the higher end high speed packages. The Comcast Blast, and Comcast Ultra internet bundles may be the right choice for you if you have multiple users in your home, or if you download content like movies frequently. The Comcast Blast internet price is $29.99 a month for the first half year, then goes up to $52.95 a month. Speeds found here are up to 20 Mbps downstream, and 4 Mbps up. The Comcast Ultra deal is $39.99 a month for six months, then $62.95 a month thereafter. Download speeds with the Ultra package are 30 Mbps with Powerboost, and up to 7 Mbps uploading content.
So which Comcast internet package is right for you? Most will be just fine using something like the Performance internet service. Unless your needs are much less, or much more should you check out the other Comcast internet package offers. Next in our Comcast cable review, we will take a look at the home phone options available.
Comcast Digital Voice
One of the big advantages of Comcast over a satellite provider like DISH Network or DIRECTV is that you can bundle all of your services together with one provider. The last piece of the Comcast triple play package is the digital home phone service. Lets take a look at the Comcast voice options available.
Comcast Unlimited Voice is the all inclusive calling option available through the cable television network. Currently priced at $39.99 a month, this calling package gives the customer unlimited local and long distance calling to all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Twelve different calling features are includes as well, and they include:
3 Way Calling
Anonymous Call Rejection
Speed Dial 8
Comcast Unlimited Voice also has a promotional offer, reducing the price to $19.99 a month for the first six months for new customers. Now if you don’t make many long distance calls, or possibly you use your cell phone for out of state calling, there is a lower priced voice option. The Comcast Local with More voice option is $24.95 a month, and includes unlimited local calling plus all of the voice features. Long distance charges are 5 cents per minute with this package, and there is not a promotional deal at this time.
Comcast Bundled Options
As discussed previously, one of the big advantages with Comcast is the ability to bundle multiple services together. All kinds of packages can be formed by combining different levels of Comcast cable service, Comcast internet, and Comcast Voice. Here is a list of the current promotional pricing, with both the introductory price and the regular price. Of course Comcast deals change frequently, so you may want to visit Comcast.com or call them directly at 1-800-COMCAST to find out what offer are out there and how they are priced.
Triple play bundles (Voice, cable TV, and Internet)
Comcast Value Plus Triple Play- $99.00 for 12 months, $114.99 after.
HD Starter Triple Play – $114.99 for 12 months, $129.99 after.
HD Plus Triple Play – $139.99 for 12 months, $159.99 after.
HD Premier Triple Play – $179.99 for one year, $199.99 thereafter.
Double Play Packages (Internet and TV)
Digital Starter with Performance High Speed Internet -$69.99 for six months, $106.90 after
Double Play Bundles (Internet and Voice)
Everyday Double Play – $54.90 per month, regular price.
Comcast DVR and On Demand
The Comcast DVR option is certainly something you will want to strongly consider. Right now, the Comcast HD DVR device holds 160 GB which equates to 90 hours of standard definition programming or 20 hours of HD programming. If you don’t have an HDTV yet, the regular Comcast DVR holds up to 80 GB, or 45 hours of standard definition content. The disadvantage of the Comcast DVR is the monthly price, which runs in the area of $15 per month. Comparing that to DVR service from satellite TV companies which run in the neighborhood of $6 per month, and you can see there is quite a difference in price. The only Comcast package that includes the DVR price is their top package, the HD Premier Triple play option.
Comcast On demand is free with all of the digital cable packages, and is a nice feature to have. On demand allows the customer to select from thousands of programs at any time. New programming options are added monthly, so you will always have fresh content to choose from. Premium on demand is available as well if you subscribe to HBO, Starz, or any other movie package. This gives you access to dozens of commercial free movie choices at any time.
These packages have varying options when it comes the the cable TV package and internet speeds you receive, so you may want to investigate them a bit further before signing up. Overall, Comcast cable can certainly provide you with several options when it comes to your home entertainment and communication needs. As the largest pay television company in America, they will continue to shape the competitive landscape for years to come.