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Comcast debuts $5-per-month 'Xfinity Flex' streaming platform and 4K HDR set-top box

In the shadow of an expected debut to Apple's hotly anticipated streaming service, Comcast on Thursday announced Xfinity Flex, a new platform that offers Xfinity Internet customers access to a range of video on demand services and subscription streaming apps for a low monthly fee.

Xfinity Flex debuts March 26.

With an official launch date of March 26, Flex costs existing customers $5 a month and comes with up to two 4K HDR set-top streaming boxes, Comcast's X1 voice-enabled remote control, an integrated content guide and support for smart home appliances.

Comcast says Flex offers access to more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows through services like ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more. Subscription products like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO and Showtime are also supported, while users have the option to rent and purchase individual shows from a digital store.

Further, customers can link their Movies Anywhere account to watch content from their digital lockers, and listen to online radio services Pandora, iHeartRadio and XITE.

The content guide appears to be Flex's main draw, as competing streaming devices from Apple, Amazon, Roku and others provide access to a similar assortment of digital streaming apps without the attached monthly hardware fee. Ported from the Xfinity X1 platform, the guide streamlines content search, browsing and viewing by aggregating video and audio programming in a centralized repository.

Additional benefits include Xfinity network monitoring and management options, parental controls and integration with home automation hardware like security cameras.

"For just five dollars a month, we can offer these customers an affordable, flexible, and differentiated platform that includes thousands of free movies and shows for online streaming, an integrated guide for accessing their favorite apps and connected home devices, and the ease of navigating and managing all of it with our voice remote," said Matt Strauss, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Services for Comcast Cable.

Flex will one day serve as an upgrade path to Comcast's full-fledged Xfinity X1 cable service. According to the company, users will soon be able to subscribe to an X1 cable package directly from Flex's integrated guide.

Flex goes live one day after Apple is expected to unveil its own video streaming service at a special event in Cupertino. Details are scarce, but reports suggest the tech giant plans to run a type of video subscription services hub bolstered by free-to-view original content.

AppleInsider will be covering Apple's event live from Apple Park on Monday, March 25, at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern.