Summary:

Roku users could soon have access to VOD and linear programming offered by their cable TV operator, thanks to a new partnership between the set-top box maker and TV start-up Clearleap. The partnership also paves the way for Roku to work closer with pay TV operators.

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Over-the-top set-top box maker Roku has partnered up with pay TV cloud services provider Clearleap to bring premium pay TV content to the Roku box. Cable TV subscribers will be able to watch linear programming and VOD titles on their Roku device and pay for these services through their cable bill.

Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarrat stopped by our office to tell us in an exclusive video interview about the partnership, and he explained that his company now reaches about 10 million pay TV subscribers through operators like Mediacom and Atlantic Broadband. Access to content through the Roku box will be rolled out by some of these operators in the third or fourth quarter (watch the complete interview below).

The deal is particularly interesting for Roku, because it could help to secure new and exclusive content not available on other over-the-top platforms. It also opens up the possibility of pay TV operators using Roku’s technology to deliver over-the-top and interactive video, essentially turning the Roku box into a lightweight pay TV set-top or companion box. One could envision smaller pay TV operators that don’t have the resources to deploy Tru2way and other advanced technologies for interactive programming to lease Roku boxes to their customers instead.

Clearleap has been supplying its services to pay TV operators who want to enhance their programming with web TV content and use the company’s cloud-based infrastructure to handle VOD and related services. But so far, service providers have relied on traditional cable or IPTV infrastructure to deliver programming managed by Clearleap. The cooperation with Roku marks the company’s first foray into the world of over-the-top video, but Jarrat told me that it won’t be the last, with Clearleap looking at “Google and any TV widget platform” as possible outlets.

The question is, will programmers and service operators follow it over-the-top? Jarrat seemed optimistic, and said that Netflix’s growing online audience has been helping to make this point. “Netflix has had a huge impact in the last six months on our customers,” he said, adding that the DVD rental firm has been able to convince many skeptics that customers are embracing over-the-top streaming: “It’s happening en masse, and there is no going back.”

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