Comcast offering HBO without premium cable subscription

HBO Go HBO/Screenshot by CNET

Comcast is testing a package called "Internet Plus" that bundles premium cable network HBO with basic TV channels and Internet service.

Variety reports that, for a limited time, Comcast will lets customers pay for HBO as a standalone service. However, a subscription to Comcast's limited basic cable services is still required.

The "Internet Plus" package includes broadband service, local channels, Streampix and HBO. The packages cost about $50 for network channels and $60 to add cable TV channels, like CNN, A&E and Comedy Central. After a year the price is bumped to $70 and $90, respectively.

Comcast is one of the largest U.S. cable and Internet broadband companies. According to Reuters, the company has more than 20 million video subscribers in the United States. HBO has about 100 million subscribers worldwide, with about 6.5 million registered for HBO Go -- its online streaming video service.

The move could help curb online piracy of popular HBO shows. In April, the premiere of the hit show "Game of Thrones" garnered a record-breaking 6.7 million viewers, but it broke another record online. According to the blog TorrentFreak, the episodewas downloaded from the Internet 1 million times in less than a day.

The term "cord cutting" is used to describe people who are cancelling cable TV subscriptionsand opting to watch videos through the Internet. MoffettNathanson senior research analyst Craig Moffett says that trend is growing.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Moffett released a report in August, titled "The Pace of Cord-Cutting Quickens," which reports that video subscriptions declined by about 380,000 in the second quarter.

"Cord-cutting used to be an urban myth," Moffett said in the report. "It isn't anymore. No, the numbers aren't huge, but they are statistically significant."

Over a 12-month period Moffett found that video subscriptions declined by about 316,000, compared with a 330,000 growth in the year before. Moffett said an estimated 911,000 homes in the U.S. have cut the cord on cable TV, compared with 258,000 in the previous year.

In September, a separate report by analysts at SNL Kagan said that the U.S. cable TV industry lost 1.8 million subscribers over the last 12 months.

A study conducted by Nielsen Research in 2012revealed that 51 percent of people said they watched TV on laptops, 49 percent said they used an Apple iPad, 37 percent used a tablet computer and 42 percent said they used video-enabled smartphones.

The trend of people watching more TV online has prompted Nielsen Research to start measuring how many people watch TV programming online. It had previously only measured programming viewership based on traditional TVs.

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