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Samsung’s ambitious Smart Media Player marches forward after ducking FCC red tape

Netflix, Amazon Instant, PBS and ESPN from one magic box? That’s Samsung’s plan with its new Smart Media Player, a set top box that will allow users to access over-the-top (OTT) video apps like Netflix and Hulu, and digital cable services from a single unit. Reported by Multichannel News, the device was just granted a waiver by the FCC to bypass the requirement of an analog tuner, seemingly the final roadblock to its slated release sometime during the holiday season this year. If this comes to pass, it could put a serious dent in the sales of purely OTT boxes like Rokus and Apple TVs. It will also be a coup against cable companies, which gather big-time revenue from leasing out cable boxes to subscribers. 

The news is just the latest coup in Samsung’s bid for OTT supremacy, following recent moves like its purchase of Boxee, presumably to help streamline its media services, apps, and hardware. Samsung had argued that the FCC’s aging provision requiring analog tuner capacity for all cable-ready devices would put unnecessary constraints on power requirements and pricing for its new box, and in the name of competition, the FCC conceded.

As of now, it looks like the box will be unable to access Video On Demand services offered directly from cable providers, but Samsung has already brokered deals with multiple system operators (MSOs) like Time Warner Cable and Comcast to provide purchasable VOD content for its Smart TVs, which could allow the company to parlay the services to the new box.

Another interesting revelation disclosed in the FCC concession is the device’s lack of an onboard DVR system like those found in TiVo boxes and other retail cable boxes providers, pointing to the likely inclusion of a cloud service DVR system. Samsung’s shutdown of Boxee’s cloud DVR system in July after purchasing the company could be part of a plan to implement a re-branded version of the service for its prized new device once it hits the streets, allowing customers to save their favorite shows in Samsung’s corner of cyberspace.

The price and exact release date for the new box are undisclosed as of yet. But with giants from every side of the tech stratosphere vying for dominance in the set-top box marketplace, it’s looking like a pretty a good time to be a couch potato. Which set-top box has caught your eye? Does the idea of digital cable services and Internet TV in a single device sound appealing?

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