Comcast, a company that doesn’t exactly have the best reputation in some customers’ eyes, appears to be ready to give subscribers something to smile about — by eliminating the cable box.
The company announced today that it’s working on a new program that will let customers watch TV via a Roku streaming device or a Samsung smart TV, without needing to also have a cable box in their homes.
The announcement follows FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recommendation that third-party hardware and software developers should give customers an alternative way to access content beyond traditional cable and satellite boxes, which typically carry monthly fees that can total more than $80 per year.
Wheeler wasn’t the only government official calling recently for a more competitive cable landscape. President Obama sat down with Yahoo Finance last week to discuss an executive order he has signed to increase competitiveness across the economic spectrum.
As part of that order, the Commerce Department sent a letter to the FCC essentially backing up Wheeler’s recommendation.
The timing of Comcast’s announcement isn’t a coincidence, though, as the company specifically mentions that the program will let customers watch TV without needing to pay cable box rental fees, and it calls the FCC’s proposal unnecessary.
Of course, this is likely nothing more than Comcast trying to show the FCC that it has things under control and doesn’t need the government to step in.
Importantly, this marks the first time that Comcast customers will be able to watch cable on their actual TVs via an app. The company’s previous Xfinity TV app lets you watch shows and movies on your favorite channels — but it’s only available for Android and iOS.
Comcast isn’t the only cable company experimenting with delivering cable programming to its customers without the box. Time Warner Cable already has a pilot program that allows customers in the New York City area to access their cable through their Roku streaming devices.
Comcast says its app will be available for Roku later this fall, and the smart TV version will hit sometime later this year.