Comcast's Great New Secret Cable Plan: Get Just What You Want (Mostly)

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Sit down, fasten your seat belts, and prepare to be astounded. Comcast (CMCSA) Cable may be about to give customers what they want: A cheap, flexible way to watch the television shows they want -- without having to pay for a lot of junk they don't.

For the past six quarters -- 18 months to you and me -- a trend has been afoot in the pay-TV industry. According to website AllThingsD, which keeps track of such things, every three months that it's checked in on Comcast's customer counts recently, it's found fewer and fewer people subscribing to the cable behemoth.

Turn Offs

37,000 people "cut the cord" with Comcast in the first quarter of 2012.

176,000 more abandoned its service in Q2 2012.

Three months later, 117,000 more left. Only 7,000 left in Q4 (when cable companies push big discounts to attract customers for the coming year). But then 60,000 were out the door in Q1 2013, 159,000 in Q2 2013, and most recently, another 129,000 in Q3.

Across the cable industry, everyone from Time Warner (TWC) to Charter (CHTR) to Mediacom is seeing similar patterns play out, as customers defect to competing television offerings by satellite and telecom providers (think Verizon (VZ) FiOS, or AT&T (T) U-Verse). Meanwhile, the traditional "cable companies" have seen a combined loss of more than 3.1 million customers over the past 18 months.

The Trend That Is Your Friend

If this sounds like a trend likely to strike fear into the hearts of Comcast cable execs -- well, it should.

So in an attempt to stem the exodus, last month Comcast announced that it's going to try and give customers more of the kinds of services they want, and less of what they don't.

Dubbed "Internet Plus," Comcast's new bundle offering consists of four main parts:
  • A basic cable subscription to 45 or so channels, including local television,
  • The premium pay-TV channel HBO, plus HBO GO for mobile devices,
  • High speed Internet access at speeds up to 25 Mbps,
  • And a subscription to XFINITY Streampix, Comcast's answer to Netflix (NFLX), which includes complete access to full seasons of past television series such as "Lost," "30 Rock," and "Battlestar Galactica."
Thus, Internet Plus gives viewers a very basic collection of the cable channels they really need, plus the premier pay channel HBO, plus plenty of other viewing options via Streampix.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%If all that isn't enough, the 25 Mbps download speed means customers can easily supplement Comcast's organic offerings with a Netflix subscription, and be assured of decent download speeds, and minimal buffering hassles.

Oh, and the price? $40 to $50, depending on your location.

The Fine Print

Now don't get too excited. This is still Comcast we're talking about. They aren't offering a la carte cable, which would let you pick (and pay for) only the channels you watch. (For a whole host of reasons, that may never arrive.) And while it sounds like they've finally resigned themselves to the fact that they must give you an option of a basic deal that actually focuses on what you want, they're not necessarily going to make it easy for you.

Visit the Comcast homepage, for example, and you'll be hard pressed to find any mention of the new Internet Plus option. Search the site, and you'll be lucky if you find even a brief mention that you can call the company on their toll free line, and maybe get someone to set you up with this bundle. And naturally, the prices offered for it are promos: After a year, Comcast will try to bump them up to $70 a month.

But finally, at long last, it's out there. And now you know to ask.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix.
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