Just a day after the FCC scuttled its alternative set-top box scheme, Comcast Xfinity and Roku show why it's not needed.
On Tuesday, the TV content supplier and the streaming TV box maker/service aggregator released a beta version of the Xfinity TV app for Roku. It offers Xfinity TV customers across the U.S. the option to also access their cable subscription through Roku boxes attached to TVs in other rooms in the same home. Streaming to the Roku boxes won't count against an Xfinity cable/internet subscriber's data cap. The Roku devices, selling for as little as $29.99, also won't carry a monthly rental fee.
Accessed as a channel on the Roku menu, the Xfinity TV app opens up to look like the immersive, graphic-rich guide, with recommendations and detailed information, which Xfinity pay TV customers have on their X1 receivers. The offering will deliver both live and on-demand programming, including local broadcasts, public/education, and government channels. And because they're stored in the cloud, users will also find their DVR recordings at the ready.
Although beta tests are often just for a select few before the formal launch coming "later this year," the joint announcement from Comcast and Roku said the Xfinity TV app for Roku is available for all subscribers to "use and explore" immediately. The beta, in this case, has more to due with the early-stage development "while Comcast continues to test and improve performance, enhance it with additional features and functionality, and refine the experience to ensure the app works smoothly."
The Roku offers voice control with lots of subscription service content on its high end ($99 and up) boxes with voice-activated remotes and the X1 system also has similar features. But will the beta version let you search for content and change channels by voice? Don't hold your breath.
Besides Roku players and sticks released "in the last couple years," the Xfinity TV app will play nicely with budget-priced HDTVs that get their "smarts" from a built-in Roku operating system. You'll find a slew of these Roku TVs at big box stores (Walmart, Target, etc.) carrying the TCL, Hisense, Haier, Insignia, and Sharp brand names.