Earlier this week, Roku rolled out an update that offered access to the HBO GO application. Assuming that a Roku owner is currently subscribed to an approved provider, users can download the application and watch the latest in HBO original programming. However, HBO doesn’t provide any method to subscribe directly to the service due to existing relationships with cable and satellite companies. A Roku owner must be subscribed to HBO through Verizon FiOS, Cox, Charter, ATT U-verse, Dish Network, Massillon Cable/Clear Picture, WOW!, Suddenlink or RCN to gain access to the programming. This method of access goes against how some of the public views the streaming device as a way to ditch expensive cable or satellite service.
While Cablevision and Time Warner Cable customers are still waiting for those cable providers to strike an initial deal with HBO for streaming access on internal platforms, Comcast and DirecTV consumers are being denied access to the HBO GO application on Roku systems. Both companies offer access to HBO programming with first-party, set-top boxes, but view competing hardware as a threat since they can’t control the presentation and branding. However, Comcast has released the Xfinity iPad app that provides access to HBO programming and the company also offers support on the XBox 360. DirecTV is also hoping that customers will stream video content to mobile devices and computers with the new Nomad set-top DVR.
It’s very possible that both Comcast and DirecTV don’t view the Roku box as a significant force in the market yet. The company has targeted three million Roku boxes sold by the end of the year, but that number pales in comparison to approximately 57 million Xbox 360 consoles sold. However, only twelve percent of Roku owners actually discontinue cable or satellite service according to an interview with CEO Anthony Wood last year. That leaves about 2.6 million Roku owners that still subscribe to those services each month.