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Drop the box! Samsung TVs, Rokus will soon host Comcast’s Xfinity service

comcast xfinity store
Ken Wolter/123rf
Leasing a set-top box has long seemed like a necessary evil for cable subscribers, but an announcement from Comcast today indicates that the practice may be on the way to becoming a relic of the past. The cable conglomerate will bring its Xfinity app to Roku devices and Samsung TVs as part of its new Xfinity TV Partner Program, and it plans to work with additional manufacturers moving forward.

If you’re an Xfinity subscriber, this will mark a big change. Using a Roku device or Samsung smart TV, you’ll be able to take advantage of your Xfinity TV cable service without the additional (and arguably unnecessary) costs of renting a Comcast set-top box. What’s more, you’ll still get the Xfinity TV guide, live and on demand programming, and, perhaps most important, cloud DVR recording.

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With the FCC working to give cable subscribers more alternatives to costly cable boxes, it has been evident that a push for change has been coming. Comcast, however, seems to be looking to adapt on its own terms. In the company’s announcement, Mark Hess, Comcast Cable’s senior vice president of business and industry affairs, made sure to make a case against the FCC’s proposal, calling it “far-reaching” and “unnecessary.”

“The FCC’s proposed set-top box mandate threatens to undermine this highly-dynamic marketplace, create substantial costs and consumer harms, and will take years to develop — only to be likely outdated by the time it reaches the marketplace — all in an effort to achieve what apps are already delivering for consumers,” said Hess.

The Xfinity TV Partner Program will leverage the open HTML5 standard, allowing consumer electronics companies to implement the app. “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,” said Hess.

The FCC, however, seems less convinced that this is a perfect solution. “While we do not know all of the details of this announcement, it appears to offer only a proprietary, Comcast-controlled user interface and seems to allow only Comcast content on different devices, rather than allowing those devices to integrate or search across Comcast content as well as other content consumers subscribe to,” said the FCC in a statement.

The discussion won’t end with today’s announcement of the new Comcast program, but in the meantime, at least, it seems to bring us a step closer to a future without the need for cable boxes.

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