Comcast has launched the Xfinity TV Partner Program to expand the range of retail devices its customers can use to access their Xfinity TV service. It’s now available for Samung Smart TV sets and Roku boxes. Now let’s see it available on the Apple TV (yes, this is a selfish request, as I own a fourth generation Apple TV and am a Comcast customer).
This is also a kinda cagey move on Comcast’s part. It’s loosening its grip on the set-top box, just as it and other cable operators line up to oppose an FCC effort to help manufacturers produce competitive boxes.
Leveraging open standard technologies, such as HTML5, the Xfinity TV Partner Program is designed to provide a common framework to which smart TV, TV-connected and IP-enabled retail device manufacturers can build to make the Xfinity TV Partner app available to eligible customers in Comcast markets without the need to lease a set-top box from Comcast.
The new Xfinity TV Partner app isn’t an over-the-top product or Internet streaming service. It will enable Xfinity TV customers to receive their Xfinity TV cable service on connected TVs and other IP-enabled third-party devices. Partners who are interested in including the new app on their devices should click here.
This is the first time Comcast has offered nearly all of its TV programming services to home users without a Comcast box. As mentioned, unlike the streaming TV Everywhere service, today’s announcement involves programming transmitted via the cable line as opposed to the Internet.
Users will be able to access two-way services — including Comcast’s program guide, VOD and cloud-based DVR — as well as federally mandated services such as closed captioning and parental controls. However, there are drawbacks. If you receive programming without Comcast’s box you won’t be able to, for instance, watch pay-per-view programming or buy downloads of movies (but, hey, the latter is what iTunes is for, right?). It also won’t work with the voice commands available on Comcast’s remote controls.
If you buy TV from Comcast but get your Internet from someone else, you’ll small device from the cable company to feed the programming into a box like Roku’s that doesn’t use HTML5. (Comcast says it doesn’t contemplate a charge for the device.)
Speaking of the Xfinity TV Partner Program, uh, Apple, you might want to check it out while we’re awaiting your own streaming service.