Comcast Anoints Roku, Shuns Apple TV Amid Now TV Development Push: Report

As it ramps up its development of streaming technology, Comcast will reportedly focus its plans on the Roku ecosystem and completely leave Apple TV out of its plans.

That is according to Apple enthusiasts news site BESTAppleTV, which claims Comcast informed Apple execs of this decision in a December meeting.

Reached for comment by MCN, a Comcast rep would only say. “At this time, we have not reached terms with Apple to bring our Xfinity Stream app to Apple TV devices."

However, a source with knowledge of the company's dealings said the report "conflates" an appearance of prejudice towards Apple, when in fact, Comcast has a relationship with the technology company. Notably, Comcast has a version of the Xfinity TV app for Apple's iOS operating system for iPhones and iPads. 

Also notable: For several years, Comcast has been developing a version of the Xfinity TV app for Roku that allows Xfinity TV subscribers to use their Comcast cable TV subscription outside the environment of the proprietary set-top box.

Its acquisition of Sky in hand, Comcast is now using the U.K. satellite TV operator’s Now TV technology blueprint to develop a direct-to-consumer streaming platform for both North America and Europe.

During Comcast’s fourth quarter earnings call, Steve Burke, CEO of the company’s NBCUniversal division, discussed loose plans to deploy Comcast-branded Roku devices to Comcast and Sky subscribers.

“Comcast is focused on the Now TV solution as the future of its streaming infrastructure and Apple has been told this,” BESTAppleTV quoted one source, which it described as being close to Comcast. “Apple has also been informed Comcast will concentrate its efforts on this platform, not on adding other third-party devices to the product mix with separate apps.”

Related: Charter to Pitch Apple TV 4K Box to Subs

Among streaming platforms, Roku’s is the most widely distributed in the U.S., with the company reporting 27 million active accounts earlier this month.

“This really is a no-brainer,” the BESTAppleTV source added. “It especially makes sense as Sky has a completely ready software and hardware solution for Roku that can be easily modified for mass distribution on every cable system in the country.”

The report of Comcast freezing out Apple comes after No. 2 U.S. cable operator Charter Communications announced extensive collaboration with Apple. This includes the deployment of 4K Apple TV devices to customers.

For Comcast, the “zero sign-on” capabilities of the tvOS operating system found on Apple TV devices is probably an issue. This feature automatically authenticates channels based on what broadband service it detects in the home—in other words, it basically assumes there’s a double-play or triple-play service bundle being subscribed to. 

Anointment by the No. 1 cable operator in America would mark an important victory for Roku, a now-publicly traded upstart which is competing with Apple and Amazon to be the baseline technology consumers use to access OTT content. 

Last month, Roku was dealt a blow when Apple announced that it would open its iTunes Store to smart TVs made by Samsung and other leading suppliers.  

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!