Comcast Today: Today Time Warner, Tomorrow Your Thermostat

Plus: Al Franken blasts the merger, again.

Comcast isn’t just keen to dominate all media. Now it’s coming for your thermostat. Multichannel News reports:

After hints of a cable-energy partnership bubbled up in January, Comcast and a unit of NRG Energy have lit up a pilot that offers a variety of perks and rewards, including prepaid Visa cards and three free months of HBO, Showtime or Starz, to Comcast subs in Pennsylvania who enroll in of two new energy programs.

The test program, called Energy Rewards, teams Independence Energy Group (IEG), a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, with Comcast. SNL Kagan analyst Deborah Yao first spotted the Energy Rewards Web site on Monday. A Comcast spokesman confirmed that the trial got underway last week.

If the trial turns into a deployment and spawns similar partnerships elsewhere, such programs could help to deepen the cable service bundle while also adding a component to Xfinity Home, the MSO’s the home security/automation service that already features a cloud-based home energy management component calledEcoSaver that was developed through MSO’s partnership with iControl and EcoFactor.

KNXToday adds that “home energy management” tools for data and media companies will become a $2.8 billion industry by 2020:

“Companies like Comcast, ADT, Verizon, and AT&T in the United States have added energy management as an option that can be bundled with home security, automation, or internet access,” says Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “The uptake of home energy management by consumers is still relatively low, but these service providers are seeding a market that has reasonable potential over the next several years.”

•Elsewhere, it seems Apparently, Al Franken really means to oppose the Comcast-Time Warner merger.

Deadline Hollywood reports:

The most camera-ready opponent ofComcast’s merger plans with Time Warner Cable — who, ironically, owes his big break to Comcast-owned NBC — went on CBS This Morning to again blast the proposed merger, saying “consumers will end up paying more, there will be less competition, there will be less innovation and, worse, even worse service.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) this morning said he sent out an email to his constituents to get their “feelings about what kind of service they get from Comcast” and whether they think the proposed deal “will be good.” “I got 60,000 responses, and believe me, people don’t like their service from Comcast, and they don’t think this deal is going to help them,” said Franken.

Other Comcastic headlines:

• After months of slowed-down data speeds for Netflix users on Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s network, speeds rebounded the very same month that Netflix agreed to pay Comcast money for more direct access to its network. Comcast customers saw a dramatic turnaround in streaming speeds, going from about 1.5 Mbps to 1.7 Mbps. Though that is still far off from the 2.1 Mbps speeds Comcast users were seeing before their ISP’s numbers started to tank, it is hopefully the beginning of an upward trend. Of course, there wasn’t really much worse Comcast speeds could get. (Consumerist)

The Senate Judiciary hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal will likely be postponed from its planned March 26 date, two sources familiar with the panel’s plans said Monday. That change would potentially make way for an SJC hearing on the STELA reauthorization, which both Judiciary and Commerce committees have jurisdiction over. Sources said the Comcast hearing would likely be rescheduled for April 2 — a committee spokeswoman declined to comment. (Politico)