Comcast Corp., based in Philadelphia, is making its Xfinity TV service available to subscribers with Roku Inc. set-top players via a new app, which will allow Comcast customers to watch live programming without the cost of a cable box.
Roku is the first set-top box to offer the Xfinity TV service, Comcast said in a statement Tuesday. During a test period, subscribers will have to hang on to their traditional cable set-top devices. When the app formally rolls out later this year, Comcast customers will be able sign up without renting a cable box. Comcast announced plans to work with Roku in April 2016.
Last year the FCC approved a proposal that any device maker would be able to pull in a TV content coming over cable and integrate it with their device’s own apps and interfaces. Roku, Amazon, Apple, Google and even Vizio and other smart TV manufacturers could all eventually design their own software and hardware for watching live TV and DVR content. The FCC wanted to create an open standard that makes this possible in a secure way.
The FCC calls the new method a “framework” that would let consumers access the television programming they’ve paid for using the hardware and software of their choice. The framework would be setup would be available on all HDMI inputs, using the ROKU box, for example. In this new framework, Input 1, referring to the first HDMI input on the TV could be the first and only input used to pipe in live television.
In other words, it’s possible that Apple could, for example, provide an Apple TV into which consumers could plug their cable connection and then watch the live TV they pay for via Apple’s interface instead of, say, Comcast’s or Time-Warner’s or Verizon’s. Rather than having to switch between different devices on a TV connected to different inputs, users would switch apps on the Roku or the AppleTV box.
The Xfinity TV app for Roku came out Jan 31st 2017 and I must say it rocks. If you want to see what the app offers this is the video for you. This was done with the Roku Ultra and hardwired to cat5e. The app only works when the roku box is connected to your home network, I have tested this.
Ultimately the only set-top box necessary would be the Roku or AppleTV hardware. Initially, there was no announcement regarding competitive boxes, such as AppleTV, which already has some specific apps for ABC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, SkyNEWS, and more. Currently, before the new framework is in place, a “one-time” password is required to activate each TV app to verify a cable user subscription. The multiple log-ins are somewhat of an inconvenience. Also, CBS makes app users pay for their access, even if the customers are already paying for a traditional cable TV subscription.
While Comcast expects the majority of its customers will remain on the typical cable box setup, the company wants to remain competitive and be more flexible about where and how people can watch TV. Considering the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, the cable companies still want to find some way to remain relevant in the content side of the equation. Comcast already integrated Netflix into its cable box last year. Customers with Roku boxes will be able to watch live TV, browse on-demand libraries and record shows, just as they can with Comcast’s boxes. Currently Roku devices range in price from $30 to $130.
Customers that cut ties with the traditional set-top boxes might experience headaches with the new framework. In August 2016, Comcast began to charge customers who exceed 1 terabyte of data usage per month. In August, less than 1 percent of Internet users exceeded 1 Terabyte, according to Comcast. For customers who exceed the data cap, the fees will be $10 for every 50 GB of additional data used during the month, up to a maximum of $200. An unlimited data usage plan is also available for an extra $50 per month.
A family of five, all streaming different TV channels and using video on demand on top of Internet service for web browsing, might be more likely to exceed 1 Terabyte. The new framework will also require a solid Internet connection, otherwise customers will be frustrated by freezes and total interruptions or minor interruptions that cause loss of quality of their picture with pixelation.
Families might want to consider innovation with their television inputs to stay under 1 Terabyte. For example, if the majority of daily morning TV watching on the kitchen TV is the NBC’s Today, that family might be wise to use the TVs antenna connection and get free TV over-the-air (OTA) directly from NBC Chicago. That OTA usage doesn’t use any data from Comcast.
The Comcast announcement dropped shares of cable-box manufacturer Arris International PLC down as much as 9.3 percent to $26.05. Arris International PLC experienced their biggest intraday drop in almost a year.
Customers that use the Roku box as their primary device instead of Comcast’s X1 device will receive a $2.50 monthly credit, according to Comcast
For now, the Xfinity app is only available within Comcast’s current markets. The Roku deal raises the possibility Comcast could offer Xfinity nationwide via the Internet of competitor’s pipelines and outside its current fiber/coax-connected markets. This could directly compete with Dish Network Corp., AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV, and other traditional Internet/CableTV services, such as WOWway and AT&T’s U-verse. Of course competition will dictate that WOWway and AT&T U-verse will entice customers with competitive packages of their own.
Dish and DirecTV, the nation’s two satellite TV services, have already created online TV services available to customers who don’t want to subscribe to traditional pay TV. They are available to people with specific set-top boxes, as well as on mobile phones, web-enabled TVs and tablets.
Comcast finished 2016 with 22.5 million video subscribers. That’s down from a peak of more than 24 million subscribers at their peak several years ago.
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The Verge: Roku has refreshed its popular line of streaming media boxes to include a tiny, $30 Roku stick and a $130 top-of-the-line Roku box that supports both 4K and HDR video (video produced before the new Comcast app was announced).