Comcast is releasing a beta version of the Xfinity TV app for Roku devices and TV sets. That will eliminate the need for users to lease a set-top box, but the cable giant will still charge customers an additional monthly fee per Roku device once the app formally launches, except in cases where a customer is using the Roku app as its “primary outlet.”
The U.S.’s No. 1 cable operator said it plans to officially launch the Xfinity TV app on Roku later this year, and is soliciting feedback from customers during the beta-test period. The Roku app can be used only in a Comcast subscriber’s home, over a broadband connection from the cable company (although the operator said it is working to make internet-gateway equipment available soon for subscribers who have another broadband provider).
During the beta program, Xfinity TV customers will not pay a fee to use the Roku app. While the Roku app is not available for use as a “primary outlet” during the beta, customers will be able to use the Xfinity TV app for Roku as their primary outlet once it is formally launched.
Customers that use the Roku app as their primary outlet will receive a $2.50 monthly credit on their bill (similar to those who use CableCard-enabled devices today like TiVo DVRs). However, Comcast will levy outlet charges for connected Roku devices on additional TV sets. Currently the operator’s additional outlet service fees per set-top box are $9.95 per month; customers that use their own equipment (i.e., a Roku device or TiVo) will receive a $2.50 credit resulting in a net charge of $7.45 per month. A Comcast rep said the company is currently “evaluating our additional outlet policies.”
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On Roku players and TVs, the Xfinity TV app will provide access to live and on-demand programming, including local broadcast and public, educational and governmental channels. Xfinity users also can watch their cloud-based DVR recordings on Roku devices in the home.
Comcast wants a presence on Roku to better compete for consumers’ watch-time alongside numerous other streaming-video options on the platform like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Coincidentally, the move comes as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has dropped the agency’s proposal to “unlock” set-top competition from vote consideration — a plan that was designed to force pay-TV operators to do exactly what Comcast is doing with Roku.
Comcast Xfinity customers can access the Xfinity TV beta app from the Roku Channel Store. Initially, the app will be available on Roku TV models and all Roku players released in the last few years, including the Roku Express, Roku Express+, Roku Streaming Stick (model 3600), Roku Premiere, Roku Premiere+, Roku Ultra, Roku 4 (model 4400), Roku 3 (model 4230 and 4200), and Roku 2 (model 4210). Comcast said it will expand support for additional Roku players leading up to the official launch.
More info on the Xfinity TV app for Roku is available at xfinity.com/xfinitytvbeta.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Comcast will charge an additional per-device fee for use of the Xfinity TV app on Roku platforms. In fact, those fees will apply only to additional TV outlets; customers who use Roku as their “primary” TV outlet will receive a $2.50 monthly credit.