Comcast stabs set-top boxes in the back, pipes directly into smart TVs

This wouldn't have anything to do with a recent FCC decision, would it?

Poster for the movie Cable Guy. Copyright:  Columbia Pictures Corporation,

Comcast appears to be suddenly in the mood for murdering set-top boxes.

Dubbed the Xfinity TV Partner Program, the campaign allows Comcast to offer its regular cable service through an app that runs on smart TVs or connected devices such as streaming video players. The app streams Comcast TV service, including broadcasts, guides, DVR and on-demand video, over internet protocol (IP).

By sending the TV service over IP rather than as a traditional cable TV signal, Comcast says it can eliminate the need for the set-top box that customers must currently lease. Users would, however, still need to subscribe to a Comcast TV plan and have an internet connection to stream the service through.

"By leveraging the open HTML5 standard that has been widely adopted across the industry, we are providing a common framework to make it easy for TV and other device manufacturers to bring our Xfinity TV Partner App to customers on their devices," wrote Comcast senior VP Mark Hess.

The first two companies to sign up for the partner service are Samsung, who will be bundling the Comcast TV app into their smart TV models, and Roku, who will put the app on their streaming video players.

The move to phase out the cable box, almost certainly not coincidentally comes in the wake of an FCC decision to open up the market. Where customers once had no choice but to lease the set-top boxes from their cable (or satellite) TV service provider, the new rules would allow third-party hardware vendors to build their own set-top boxes and sell them directly to users.

Now, it seems, with their captive audience suddenly open to alternatives, Comcast has decided it can do without cable boxes entirely. ®




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