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CES: TW Cable, Fox board Roku

First deals with multichannel distrib/broadcaster for company

Roku has struck its first deals with a U.S. multichannel distributor and broadcast network, the company announced today.

Time Warner Cable will make live simulcasts of as many as 300 linear channels to those who subscribe to both its video and data plans in addition to owning Roku boxes.

Separately, Fox will make next-day access to episodes of its primetime series available on the streaming device to users who can authenticate their subscriptions with participating pay TV providers. Both new content feeds are expected to launch this quarter.

While the authentication element will minimize the threat Roku conceivably poses as a low-cost alternative to the pay TV biz, rival devices like Apple TV or Google TV could face a distinct competitive disadvantage without signing similar deals.

The TW Cable pact also reflects a willingness among distributors to cede the hardware aspect of their business to nimbler tech firms who could provide better user experiences but lack the capital to get rights to expensive content.

While multichannel distributors have become more aggressive about making live recreations of their video packages available to computers and devices, similar offerings on the TV itself are few and far between for competitive reasons.

The most comparable deal to Roku-TW Cable to date may be the arrangement Comcast and Verizon have with XBox Live, though they don’t make as many channels available through the gaming console as the cable operator will be doing with Roku.

TW Cable made a somewhat similar announcement a few years ago to put apps directly on connected TVs manufactured by Samsung and Sony, but those deals have not materialized.

The Fox content will come courtesy of its recently launched app Fox Now, which is also available for TV consumption on XBox Live and Samsung Smart TV. Perhaps not coincidentally, Fox parent company News Corp. led a $45 million round of investment in Roku last summer.

Fox Now does not currently supply a simulcast of the live channel. Making next-day viewing via Fox Now available only to authenticated pay TV subs protects viewing that would otherwise be done on DVR or VOD.

Among the other new content partners coming to Roku are PBS, Blockbuster on Demand, Vevo and Dailymotion, bringing the total number of programmers in the U.S. to 700.

Fox isn’t the first TV network to give Roku authenticated access to full episodic programming, given the presence of premium cablers HBO Go and Epix.

Roku also announced a new fleet of TV manufacturers – — Apex, Coby, Haier, Hisense, TCL — that will make its sets “Roku ready,” or compatible with streaming sticks.

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