Comcast Launches ‘Xfinity TV Partner Program'

Comcast has launched the Xfinity TV Partner Program, an initiative that will extend a bridge to retail devices and enable subscribers to access their pay TV service, including live TV, VOD and cloud DVR recordings.

Comcast said Samsung is the first TV maker to join the initiative, which is being launched as the FCC looks to create new rules aimed at “unlocking” the set-top box.

Comcast said customers will “soon” be able to access the Xfinity TV app/service on 2016 Samsung smart TVs, noting that it will also provide access Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) channels. 

Tied, in, Comcast also announced a deal with Roku that will bring its authenticated Xfinity TV partner app to Roku streaming players and integrated TVs. Comcast said the app, designed for the Roku platform, will debut sometime later this year. Like the app for Samsung’s smart TV platform, the Roku version will also support Comcast’s live TV lineup, VOD vault, and cloud DVR. 

The MSO said Xfinity TV Partner apps, including the one coming to Roku's platform, will not be delivered to the home “over-the-top” via public Internet connections, but rather will be distributed to those homes via Comcast’s managed IP network. That also means that traffic from the Xfinity TV Partner app will be exempt from some of the usage-based data policies for high-speed Internet service that Comcast is testing in several markets.

Comcast is using a similar non-OTT approach for Stream, a skinny-bundle IPTV offering for mobile devices that’s selling for $15 per month in markets such as Chicago and Boston.

As for the program itself, Comcast said it will use a common framework and open standards, such as HTML5, to help smart TV makers and TV-connected and IP-based retail device manufacturers to build Xfinity TV Partner apps in the MSO’s footprint without requiring customers to lease a set-top box from Comcast.  

“Comcast has long partnered with Samsung to bring our customers advanced, high-quality entertainment viewing experiences, and we are thrilled to have them on board to help launch this exciting program,” Mark Hess, Comcast Cable’s SVP, office of the chief technology officer, business and industry affairs, said in a statement. “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.”

“Roku is one of the largest providers of streaming TV devices and an innovative pioneer in the space, and we are thrilled to provide Xfinity TV customers with access to their subscription across Roku devices,” added Hess, who was a member of the Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), a group appointed by the FCC last year to consider a successor to the CableCARD (the DSTAC last September presented multiple paths to the FCC, which has since moved ahead with the current rulemaking effort). “We want to give our customers the ability to watch what they want, when and where they want, and we will continue to explore new partnerships to bring Xfinity TV content and user experience to even more retail devices.”

Though Comcast's approach will provide a way for its full slate of pay TV services to reach more retail devices and retail control of its data, other retail device makers, such as TiVo, want to offer those services on their devices  via user interfaces of their own making.