Meet Xfinity Instant TV, the provider’s “cable TV streaming service”

Joe Supan

Mar 25, 2020 — 6 min read

Xfinity Instant TV logo
  • Only available to Xfinity internet customers
  • Plans available from $10-$45/mo. 
  • Month-to-month contracts
  • Streams live TV through Xfinity app, available on most smart TVs and streaming devices
  • Comes with 20 hours of DVR storage and two simultaneous streams

Xfinity Instant TV falls somewhere between streaming and cable TV. The company calls it a “cable TV streaming service,” which is somehow both nonsensical and accurate. 

Like every other live TV streaming service, it uses your internet connection to stream live TV through your smart TV, streaming device, game console, phone or tablet. In other words, you won’t need a cable box (or the equipment rental fee that usually comes along with it) to use Xfinity Instant TV.

So where does the “cable” part come in? Only in the restrictions. You must be an Xfinity customer to use this service. Aside from that, Instant TV is essentially the exact same type of streaming service as YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.

Xfinity Instant TV channels and plans

Xfinity Instant TV has four “packs” from which you can mix and match. The Limited Basic plan costs $10/mo. and includes around 10 local channels. The rest of the plans are add-ons to this base package — you’ll need to pay for it first if you want to include any additional channels. You can also add as many of the extra packages as you’d like. Here are your options:

Keep in mind, the prices listed are only for each individual add-on — you’ll still have to pay for the Limited Basic plan separately. So if you only want the Sports & News Pack, your total price will be $45/mo. 

The channels included in the Limited Basic plan vary by location. We’ve listed what we got in Seattle, but you might get a different lineup in your area. Here’s what’s included in each pack:

  • Limited Basic ($10/mo.): ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW, CSPAN, Cheddar Business Stream, Cheddar News, Discovery, DUST, HSN, Jewelry Television, QVC, QVC2, QVC3, Sky News, Tastemade, Univision
  • Sports and News ($35/mo.): “Limited Basic” pack plus Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX Business, FOX News, FOX Sports 1, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports, Newsmax TV
  • Entertainment Pack ($15/mo.): “Limited Basic” pack plus A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Bravo, Comedy Central, Discovery, E!, Food Network, FX, FXX, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, History, HGTV, HSN2, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Movieplex, MTV Live, OWN, Oxygen, Syfy, TBS, TNT, TruTV, TV One, USA, VH1
  • Kids & Family Pack ($10/mo.) “Limited Basic” pack plus Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Freeform, Hallmark Channel, INSP, MTV, National Geographic Channel, Nickelodeon, Universal Kids, TLC

Xfinity Instant TV is unique among live TV streaming services in that it allows you to mix and match which packages you want included. If your family doesn’t care about sports and news, for example, you can build a solid package for just $35/mo. 

That said, with the “Limited Basic” package included in all plans, you’re paying $10/mo. for local channels that can be had for free through a TV antenna. Granted, these are some of the most popular channels around — in 2019, they aired nine out of the top 10 broadcasts of the year — but you don’t need to pay a premium for them. 

Xfinity Instant TV vs. streaming services

If you don’t care that much about sports, Xfinity Instant TV is one of the most cost-effective options in streaming. To compare it to other services, we utilized TiVo’s Video Trends Report, which asked 3,330 respondents, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” The more people wanted a channel included, the higher it ranked. Here’s how Instant TV’s packages measures up:

While Xfinity doesn’t have the volume of channels that pricier streaming options do, it has almost all of the ones users want the most. Of the top 25 channels from TiVo’s survey, Xfinity’s Entertainment pack had 19 — as many as services like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV that are double its price. 

Of course, there are no sports or news channels in that package — essentially the only types of content you actually need live TV for. To get those, you’ll need the $45/mo. Sports & News pack, which is a lot less impressive. 

Is Xfinity Instant TV good for sports?

Not really. Even if you get the Sports & News Pack for $45/mo., you’re still missing a number of key channels that air live sports. Xfinity Instant TV doesn’t get the NFL Network, MLB TV, NBA TV, NHL Network, and you’ll have to add the Entertainment pack for channels like TBS and TNT, which air marquee NBA and MLB games. 

Regional sports networks, the channels that air your local MLB, NBA and NHL team’s games, are included in the Sports & News Pack. But if you’re a sports fan, it’s probably worth spending $5 more per month for YouTube TV, which gets you almost every sports channel out there. 

Xfinity Flex vs. X1 vs. Instant TV

Xfinity currently has a few streaming products out right now that have some overlap. Here’s how they break down: 

  • Xfinity Flex: Similar to a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, Flex is a streaming box that lets you stream services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV. Keep in mind, you’ll still have to subscribe to those services separately. 
  • Xfinity X1: Xfinity X1 is another streaming device that sets out to blend your streaming apps like Netflix with the live TV channels that Xfinity provides. You’ll have to subscribe to a separate Xfinity TV service to use the X1. 
  • Instant TV: This is a pretty straightforward live streaming service. You pay month-to-month, it doesn’t come with any equipment and you have a few different channel packages to choose from. 

How is the user experience?

We found Xfinity Instant TV’s user experience to be pretty sub-par. On web browsers, the setup is a fairly basic black grid with around three hours of programming listed for each channel. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but other streaming services offer nice improvements. When you hover over a channel on YouTube TV, for example, it shows you exactly what’s playing before you click on it. Instant TV has no pleasant surprises like this.

But our biggest complaint was just that it took a couple seconds to load each channel. That’s not a huge deal if you know what you want to watch, but if you like the experience of channel-surfing, Instant TV will be an aggravating experience.

It was largely the same story with Xfinity’s Roku app. Channels actually seemed to take even longer to load, and we occasionally got a message saying the app wasn’t working at all. This might not be a dealbreaker for everyone, but if a smooth TV experience is important to you, we recommend YouTube TV or fuboTV. 

Xfinity Instant TV supported devices

Unfortunately, the devices that work with Xfinity Instant TV are still pretty limited. You can watch it on a web browser, an Android or iOS device, some Samsung smart TVs or a Roku streaming device or smart TV. It currently doesn’t work with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Apple TV or any gaming consoles. 

The bottom line

Xfinity Instant TV provides a great value for people who don’t want to watch a lot of sports and news. But if those channels are important to you — and they’re the reason most people pay for live TV — you’re better off going with a more established live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.