For quite some time now, the FCC has been trying to sell the idea of “opening” the set-top box as something innovative and beneficial for consumers. However, on the eve of the proposal’s filing deadline, Comcast and the free market have already moved well beyond the set-top box, into much more innovative territory. In two separate press releases this past Wednesday, Comcast announced new partnerships with Samsung and Roku to allow Xfinity streaming through the two platforms. Such partnerships demonstrate that, while the FCC ruling isn’t even official yet, they will essentially be obsolete on arrival. The set-top box is on its way out, and the market, not the FCC, is providing the alternative.
Comcast’s partnerships with Samsung and Roku will allow for online streaming capabilities without a set-top box. Comcast will develop an Xfinity TV Partner app, which will allow users to access their normal live programs, on-demand options, and DVR settings through an online connection, which will be made available on Samsung Smart TVs, Roku TVs, and Roku streaming sticks. This will allow users to access all of their regular Xfinity programs alongside their other streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu, on the multimedia hubs. Thus, consumers will have the option to make the one-time payment for a smart TV or a Roku stick (which typically go for around $50) and get their cable access, rather than paying month to month for a set-top box. With these new developments, alongside Comcast’s mobile apps to allow for streaming on the go, consumers will be freed from antiquated streaming hardware to pursue innovative new options.
Clearly, then, the market has shown that it can adapt to changing demands for streaming capabilities better than any regulatory agency. As more and more people are cutting their cords and switching to exclusively online content, Comcast is able to meet these demands by joining two of the fastest growing parties in this field. Consumers can now save money and have all of their streaming choices available on one central platform. Furthermore, Comcast can maintain its autonomy in its advertising options and design, as well as keep control over the consumption information of its customers. On the other hand, the FCC’s plans would completely disrupt this equilibrium, letting third-parties manipulate the streaming options to their own benefit. In essence, Comcast is eliminating the set-top box, while the FCC is just trying to create a new one.
Comcast, Samsung, and Roku are all poised to embrace the future, and these deals signal to consumers what that future of streaming options will look like. Left out of that image is the FCC, trying to solve self-imposed problems only to make the situation messier. In time, all streaming options will look more like the Xfinity apps on Roku and Samsung TVs, leaving the FCC’s stance on set-top boxes to be a relic of the past.