The first one’s free: Comcast offers free cable to students of select schools via Wi-Fi

Today marks the launch of Comcast’s new Xfinity On Campus, a service that lets college students watch live TV and on-demand video (VOD) content via their IP-enabled devices. Because… you know, students have so much spare time on their hands, and they just need one more distraction to round out their daily schedules.

Related: Comcast offering ‘up to’ six months of free Internet service for low income families

Comcast announced today that the service will be included with room and board for students living in on-campus housing this fall at select locations, including Bridgewater College, Drexel University, Emerson College, Lasell College, and the University of Delaware. Several other schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire, will conduct a trial of the program with students this fall, as well. Students will be able to watch TV and stream VOD selections via laptops, tablets, and smartphones while connected to the university’s Wi-Fi network(s), though currently the service is only available on desktop and laptop computers.

On Campus offers roughly 80 live channels, including every major broadcast network and channels such as AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX, and MTV. Students can also access to Xfinity’s On Demand, an important addition considering the growing trend in time displaced viewing habits, especially with younger, more savvy viewers. When off campus, students will be able to use their university credentials to authenticate and access online programming that’s part of their subscription via TV Everywhere websites and apps such as WatchESPN and FXNOW, as well.

Finally, On Campus subscribers can also upgrade to a selection of premium channels including HBO, Showtime, STARZ, as well as Comcast’s Sports Entertainment Package. In addition to these and live/on-demand choices, students will soon have the option to upgrade to a cloud-based DVR service to be able to record and then “check out” their favorite selections by downloading them to a chosen device for on-the-go entertainment.

C0mcast’s latest ploy seems to be aimed at snagging new, young customers before they’re completely independent. The company likely hopes that after graduating – or dropping out – former students will seek to stave off TV withdrawals, opting for the source they’ve come to know and love after four-plus years of “free” and painless service: Comcast.

While the move may serve as a stop gap for Comcast, hoping to stem the tide of young people who are increasingly ditching cable for cord-cutting services like Netflix and Hulu, it also seems like a bit of a testing ground, offering a controlled demographic for Comcast to prepare for the inevitable evolution of major cable and satellite services off the cord and online.

Either way, for the lucky students of the select Universities and Colleges, Xfinity on Campus will no doubt be a welcome luxury in the meager years of Top Ramen and off-brand peanut butter.

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