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Starz tried to make streaming simpler, but Comcast customers are paying for it

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New app bundles standalone service with authenticated cable streaming

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Streaming TV shows can be a bit confusing for some people, and that's partly because many networks — HBO, Showtime, etc. — offer two apps for basically the same purpose. The debut of standalone, over-the-top streaming services has led these companies to present consumers with a pair of apps: one for cord cutters (think HBO Now, Showtime), and the other for customers who log in with their existing cable account (HBO Go, Showtime Anytime). That's a little complicated, so with the recent relaunch of its streaming app, Starz decided to just combine the two.

If you pay for cable, you can authenticate that way. If not, you can instead subscribe to the company's brand new standalone streaming service right from the app. Seems simple enough, and most cable providers have allowed their customers to stream through the Starz app with no problem, except for one: Comcast.

HBO Showtime apps
Instead of making two apps like HBO and Showtime, Starz put both streaming options into one.

Comcast Xfinity customers are currently unable to watch movies and shows within the Starz app, which has led to a number of 1-star reviews and angry complaints. Many of those very upset people blame Starz for the fiasco, and there's reason to be upset. The company got rid of its previous Starz Play and Encore Play apps on both Android and iOS with the relaunch, so Comcast users who were able to stream content just fine before are left with no good option right now for watching Outlander or The Girlfriend Experience. That was a pretty bad idea on Starz's part, as both apps really should've stuck around until the network and Comcast could work something out for the new app. The Starz Play app still exists on Roku and some gaming consoles, so there are some alternatives depending on what devices you own.

So what's the problem, exactly? Well, one reasonable theory is that Comcast isn't keen on an independent, over-the-top streaming option being packaged side by side with the TV Everywhere model that cable companies prefer. That breaks precedent with the (confusing) approach other networks have gone with. Starz has apparently already taken steps to avoid potential conflicts with cable operators, pledging not to advertise the $8.99-per-month OTT product on the channels that TV customers are watching.

That's apparently been enough for many; Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and other cable companies are supporting the new Starz app. Just not Comcast, which happens to be the largest provider in the United States. This is also the company that inexplicably still won't allow its own paying subscribers to watch HBO Go on PlayStation consoles. But anyway, back to the issue at hand: both Starz and Comcast refer to one another as "great partners" so hopefully they'll work something out before long.