Nowadays, it seems as if everyone is offering their own live television streaming service.
Not only is the industry dominated by the likes of Sling and DirecTV Now, but newcomers such as YouTube TV and Hulu With Live TV also offer interesting packages. T-Mobile recently announced that it too will join the fray.
So it's not surprising that the folks at Comcast now offer their own Xfinity Instant TV. Tom's Guide Forum Member KublaiKhan made this discovery when cutting Comcast's cable TV service out of their life, and wrote us with this question:
"I just dropped Comcast cable television because of the ridiculous pricing structure and rates that climb almost monthly. I increased my data rate from 60 mb/s to 100 mb/s. I told the agent I was switching to streaming only at home. She mentioned Comcast had its own streaming service of basic channels. I imagine this is more the same overpriced tripe, but does anyone here actually use Comcast streaming, rather than Roku, Amazon Fire, or such?"
After some investigating, we've found that Xfinity Instant TV, Comcast's service, has its pros and cons, and is definitely worth checking out if you can't stand to be without local TV networks.
What is Instant TV?
Comcast's Xfinity Instant TV is a live television streaming service that is exclusive to those who get their internet from Comcast/Xfinity.
How much does Instant TV cost and what channels does it offer?
Instant TV entices subscribers with the lowest starting price in live TV streaming: $18 per month. For that price, you get your local broadcast networks (including CBS, FOX and NBC), and all public, educational and governmental channels.
Although you could get local broadcast networks for free with an HD antenna, Instant TV includes a DVR (more on that later) for recording those shows.
How does that compare to others?
Although Instant TV is the cheapest offer out there, I would hesitate before calling it a deal. The best deal in the game is arguably Sling TV's $20 per month Orange Pack, which gives you the FOX and NBC broadcast networks, sports programming, including ESPN, NBA TV, the NHL Network, and cable networks, including Comedy Central, History, Food Network, IFC, the Travel Channel and A&E.
Are there are upgrades for Instant TV?
For a richer channel list that competes with what Sling or DirecTV Now offer, you'll need to spend more money per month. The $10 more per month Kids & Family package is needed to unlock channels such as Freeform, National Geographic, TLC, Nickelodeon and Disney.
You'll spend another $15 more per month to get FX, Comedy Central, AMC, USA and the other networks in the Entertainment package. Sports fans and live-news watchers pay the highest premium, as the package with ESPN, CNN and their competitors costs $35 extra per month. HBO is an additional $15 per month, which is the same price it costs by itself as an HBO Now subscription.
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If you could be OK with just one of those upgrade packages, Instant TV could very well be worth it. But because certain packages aren't available in all markets, Xfinity says users should begin the signup process by clicking "Get 1 Month Free" here (opens in new tab) to see what is available for their area.
But for a mix of news, entertainment, sports and kids content you're spending $78 per month with Xfinity, a price that could push you back to paying for regular Comcast cable. The entry-level packages for Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV NOW, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV range from $20 to $40, but each comes with a much deeper catalog.
What devices is Instant TV on?
Although you can view Instant TV on Xfinity's apps for smartphones and tablets, the same can be said for all of its competitors, and you'll need a Roku device for the full experience on your TV. There's no Instant TV app on any other over-the-top box, including Comcast's own Xfinity Flex. (Read our full Xfinity Flex review).
Every other major streaming service offers apps on more TV-connected devices than just the Roku. Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DirecTV NOW, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV all also have Apple TV apps, and all of those (minus YouTube TV) are also available on Amazon Fire. Hulu and YouTube TV are on Xbox consoles, and PS Vue is on PS3 and PS4.
Are there any other ways to stream Instant TV?
Instant TV will also be coming to Samsung, LG and Sony smart TVs when its app launches later this year. Your Instant TV credentials can also be used to log in to programmers' apps on devices such as the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox and Playstation. YouTube TV is on select LG and Samsung smart TVs, and Sling is on select Samsung Smart TVs.
What about DVR?
Instant TV's cloud-based DVR caps you at 20 hours of storage and limits you to recording up to two shows at once. That's not much compared to YouTube TV and Hulu With live TV, as the former offers an unlimited amount of cloud DVR, and the latter limits you to only 50 hours. Sling TV doesn't have a DVR yet, DirecTV Now's is in beta testing and PS Vue's DVR has limitations based on streaming rights.
Need streaming media advice? To get answers fast, head straight to the Tom's Guide Forums for the latest tips from our resident experts and fellow members. You can also comment on this article or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See, I've also got Sling. So, I can compare. First thing: Xfinity's app for Roku is a bugged up nightmare that only half works, so watching "Instant TV" on your TV is not REEEEALLY an option right now. On your PC, in browser... seems to work alright. Next thing: Pretty sure Comcast's Instant TV is all in 720p. Yeah. 720p max resolution in 2018 from basically THE cable provider in the U.S. So, if you've got a nice 52"...well, enjoy the low-res digital blur from cheapskate Comcast. Next thing! ... Wait, no that's it. There's honestly not much to say about it. Or... reason to watch it.
They've rolled out this internet-tv product with a channel lineup designed for your grandma - all local, no cable - except your grandma wants a set top box and proper, old-school cable! The market they're appealing to wants to lead the edge, cutting the cord with Netflix, and YouTube... and Comcast's product offering maxes out at a 15 year old resolution. (Helluva marketing team over there.) At the price they're selling it, and with the lack of channel offerings, it's not really a product. There's no reason anyone should (or will) buy this outright.
But if it keeps you in a discount-package, (so you're not being robbed by their "regular rates") and you can get Comcast to sell you it's 2nd highest-speed internet package with it in a bundle... well then! You're still going to need Netflix and Sling.