Comcast teaming with Samsung, Roku to ditch set-tops; FCC not impressed

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) announced the launch of a new initiative meant to enable consumer electronics devices to access the MSO's video services without the need of a set-top box. 

Comcast said that Samsung smart TVs will be the first enabled under the so-called "Xfinity TV Partners Program," natively accessing linear, on-demand and cloud DVR programming. The Xfinity Partner app will be available later this year and will run on new 2016 Samsung smart TVs.

Comcast simultaneously announced that Roku streaming players and enabled TVs are also part of the initiative. 

Not surprisingly, with the FCC proposing major rules revisions meant to disrupt the leased pay-TV set-top box business, the NCTA pounced on the Comcast announcement as a prime example as to why the regulation isn't needed. 

"Today's announcements by Comcast, Roku and Samsung demonstrate how innovative marketplace solutions are enabling consumers to enjoy their favorite pay TV programming on a growing variety of retail devices without the need for a traditional set-top box," said Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable Telecommunications Association.

"These exciting developments show how technology and television are enriching the consumer experience while protecting copyright, consumer privacy and other important elements that make America the world's entertainment leader.  Instead of rushing forward with a regulatory proceeding that will upset a marketplace that is undergoing such a dramatic transformation and achieving the goals that it seeks, the FCC should study these developments and reconsider the path it appears to be on."

The FCC wasn't as impressed: "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 agency said in a statement. 

The app arrives as other pay-TV operators are also virtualizing video service delivery and ditching proprietary set-tops. Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) added as many as many as 192,000 customers to its IP-based Sling TV service in the first quarter alone, according to analyst projections. And AT&T (NYSE: T) will launch several virtualized versions of its DirecTV platform later this year.

Added Comcast senior VP Mark Hess: "We remain committed to giving our customers more choice in how, when and where they access their subscription, and the Xfinity TV Partner Program enables us to efficiently and effectively expand the range of devices our customers can utilize to do that."

For more:
- read this Comcast press release
- read this other Comcast release

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