Comcast Is About to Sell You Cable TV Without the Cable Box

  • Subscribers can watch live TV, record with Roku’s player
  • For now, Xfinity app will be available only in current markets

Comcast will begin offering Xfinity TV service through a Roku app.

Source: Roku Inc.

Comcast Corp. is making its Xfinity TV service available to subscribers with Roku Inc. set-top players via a new app, paving the way for customers of the nation’s largest cable provider to watch live programming without the cost or hassle of a cable box.

Roku is the first set-stop box to offer the Xfinity TV service, Comcast said in a statement Tuesday. During a test period, subscribers will have to hang on to their cable devices. When the app formally rolls out later this year, they’ll be able sign up without renting a cable box.

Comcast’s announcement sent shares of cable-box manufacturer Arris International PLC down as much as 9.3 percent to $26.05, their biggest intraday drop in almost a year.

While Comcast expects the majority of its customers to opt for the typical setup, traditional pay-TV providers are trying to be more flexible about where and how people can watch TV given the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon and the boxes that offer them. Customers with Roku players will be able to watch live TV, browse on-demand libraries and record shows, just as they can with Comcast’s boxes.

Those who use the Roku as their primary device instead of Comcast’s X1 device will receive a $2.50 monthly credit, the company said.

For now, the Xfinity app is only available within Comcast’s current markets. The Roku deal raises the possibility the company will offer Xfinity nationwide, aping Dish Network Corp. and AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV. 

Online TV

Dish and DirecTV, the nation’s two satellite TV services, have created online TV services available to customers who don’t want to subscribe to traditional pay TV. They are available to people with certain set-top boxes, as well as on mobile phones, web-enabled TVs and tablets.

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, has added cable subscribers four of the past five quarters and finished 2016 with 22.5 million video subscribers. That’s down from a peak of more than 24 million several years ago. In another move designed to keep people buying video service from the cable company, Comcast integrated Netflix into its cable box last year.

The company announced plans to work with Roku last April. In September, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission called off a planned vote to give consumers cheaper alternatives to renting cable company equipment.

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