Comcast will make its Xfinity app available on smart TVs and third party set-top boxes without the need to lease a cable box, the company announced today. Roku and Samsung Smart TVs will be the first devices to receive the apps later this year. The move comes as the FCC prepares to loosen the stranglehold cable companies have maintained over cable boxes for years.
The Xfinity TV Partner Program will allow TV and set-top box manufacturers to incorporate Comcast's cable offering, including the guide, cloud DVR recordings, and live TV directly into their products. With 22 million Comcast cable subscribers in the US, it likely won't be long before other TV manufacturers begin offering Comcast apps on their own products.
Comcast is trying to paint the expansion of its app program as a reason why the FCC doesn't need to intervene in the set-top box marketplace. "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marketplace, create substantial costs and consumer harms, and will take years to develop – only to be likely outdated by the time it reaches the marketplace – all in an effort to achieve what apps are already delivering for consumers," Mark Hess, Comcast's senior vice president of business and industry affairs, wrote.
You can expect other TV manufacturers to adopt Comcast's app sooner than later
In a statement to The Verge, an FCC official said that Comcast's app is still too locked down to be a true solution to the cable box issue. “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,” the official stated.
But continuing to pay a monthly fee to cable companies to lease a set-top box you actually don't need is only benefiting the cable companies. But with only a handful of devices expected to have the Xfinity app this year, and a number of other cable companies who haven't taken the same steps to build their own apps, an open market is still the best option for consumers.