31 Comments

Summary:

Time Warner Cable is going to stream live television to Roku boxes through a new app that is going to be released some time this quarter. This makes Time Warner Cable the first operator to strike such a deal with Roku.

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Time Warner Cable customers will soon be able to watch live television on their Roku box, thanks to a deal announced Monday at CES. The cooperation between the two companies brings the TWC TV service, which has previously only been available on iOS and Android devices as well as on PCs, to second-generation Roku boxes as well as the recently-introduced Roku streaming stick.

Time Warner Cable will stream up to 300 channels to subscribers through the service. The actual channel line-up depends on where customers live, as well as their subscription package, but I’ve been told by Roku that this isn’t one of those “get all the major broadcasters, minus the two you actually watch” kind of deals: “All channels will be included,” a Roku spokesperson told me.

This is a significant win for Roku, and it foreshadows where the company is going: In the past, Roku has often advertised itself as a cord cutting solution, with Roku CEO Anthony Wood telling us back in 2010 that 12 percent of his customers had already given up on their pay TV subscription. But since then, Roku has put a bigger emphasis on authenticated offerings like HBO Go. The Time Warner Cable deal now marks the first time a pay TV operator is streaming live TV straight to Roku devices.

  1. Who does this benefit? TWC subscribers already get the channels thru their cable box, and non-subscribers won’t be able to watch them on their Roku. So what’s the point?

    1. Steven Weathers Ed Monday, January 7, 2013

      Not having to pay 10$ extra per box per room a month perhaps?

    2. Steven Weathers Ed Monday, January 7, 2013

      Not having to pay the 10$ extra per box per room a month perhaps?

    3. The deal is actually for the benefit of Time Warner.

      First of all, in the MVPD world, video subscriber growth is flat to shrinking, while IP-only consumers grow quickly. As a result, Time Warner has no visibility to these customers, so being a Roku channel means that they might be able to capture some video sub revenue from their IP only customers. It also means that they can experiment with different packages for IP-only customers.

      Secondly, building and managing apps for a Roku box is about 1/10 the effort of a “classic” set top box (I should know, we have developers in house working on a set-top box interface, it’s a huge effort). With Roku, it’s very much the same as building web interfaces, and deploying changes is MUCH simpler.

      So all in all, I think that the MVPD and MSO are moving towards a “bring your own box” model, and then moving into the sVOD model with a better content offering and a large suite of live offerings.

    4. It’s cheaper for the consumer, assuming the app is free. According to my cable bill I pay ~$8/month to rent my digital cable box and remote (that’d be a tick more if I’d opted for the DVR version). Since a Roku is about $60, I’d be saving money after 8 months.

      1. We purchased our cable box. It was an option with part of the agreement being that it would be replaced if updated, or defective at some point. So far it’s worked out well with no monthly fee, and the box has been replaced twice.

    5. Does away with equipment rental and bloated internet/cable package charges. The video streaming package will probably be cheaper than the same over cable. Also makes TWC programming available to anybody with an internet connection instead of only those zip codes where TWC offers service. Not everybody can get their cable service you know.

      1. TWC always has a way of finding ways to charge people more. Hopefully, when we return our digital boxes, that fee will be eliminated from our monthly bill. I have 2 of them myself. Also, since downloading the app to my HDTV, I have not been able to get my local channels which is supposed to be part of the channel lineup for my area. They must be on that app line up somewhere but I have yet to find them. I really like Roku. I have 2 of the devices now, so small and portable and HD is really great. Very happy to see TWC come on board even though I don’t like them at all. There is going to be a lot of competition now with these cable companies starting to stream live and maybe we will finally be able to pick the programming we want and get our cable bills within an affordable range. One can only hope and pray.

  2. Significant on a couple fronts. This makes content from a traditional pay TV subscription available on what has been an “over the top” device, and takes another step toward integrating traditional pay TV content with OTT content – these are complementary, not substitutes (for most consumers…). Also some significant implications on network neutrality and data caps.

  3. One question for any of these “STB Replacement” stories that may help clarify things: does the Live TV stream directly from the cloud, or via a video gateway box provided by the MVPD?

  4. If this deal proceeds, I hope Roku comes out with a much better remote device. The one I am using is tiresome. Balky, unresponsive, dated.

    1. I have an app on my iphone that works great

    2. You need to upgrade to the XD Roku 2. It has 1080p HD and it works real well. They are more expensive but its worth it not to have those clunky digital cable boxes anymore, not to mention the monthly cost.

  5. Roku needs to improve its remote device. The one I have (2 years old) is tiresome.

    1. they have….the remote i got two days befor this anounsment is smaller than my tv remote…its about five inches long and 2 1/2 wide

  6. Stacey Higginbotham Monday, January 7, 2013

    The Roku’s don’t have hard drives inside them, right? In that case this seems like a step back in some ways because you can’t record shows and save them unless the streaming options get better. But in that case, there’s a lot of bandwidth that people will consume. Not sure if TWC can handle it.

    1. you can plug in a USB drive to add additional storage, but the Roku can store a certain amount of data on the box itself. But no, this won’t be a DVR replacement. Rather, the shows would be available to watch in a similar way to Hulu (streaming). I would guess that TWC wouldn’t be the one dealing with the bandwidth, but Roku.

    2. Providers are moving toward a fully cloud-based DVR without local storage….the meme that “bandwidth is expensive” is being crushed by Google Fiber – TWC and Comcast and others have to get their game on because bandwidth scarcity is a business model that can and will be crushed by new telecom providers. Look at what Dish Networks are up to…because they have to be…

    3. FYI I work for TWC and we are also partners with Verizon don’t worry about the bandwidth it is not an issue.

  7. It’s definitely heading towards bring your own “client box” over the coming years, but an MVPD-provided Video Gateway will still likely be needed in most homes in that timeframe – which will include DVR capabilities.

    Based on the “all Live TV channels will be available” comment from Roku, I would expect there will be a dependency on the video gateway being deployed, and the Live TV will be a stream from that gateway to the Roku box. This sounds like a “classic” multi-room solution (which is a good thing).

  8. Not every TV needs (or can afford) a DVR when a household has 3+ TV sets. Not being forced to pay the cable box rental fee each month would be a huge win!

  9. Do the cable operators deals with networks prevent them from distributing their content outside their areas? If not, then TWC could compete in areas where they have no cable in the ground. This would finally lead to real competition.

    At least until they all decided they didn’t like competition, and lobbied for the right to restrict content on their cable modems, so cable company customers wouldn’t be able to stream video from other sources.

    1. Two flaws with your questions:

      1) You need to be paying for TWC in order to be able to stream it on your Roku

      2) If there is no cable in the ground then where are you getting your internet in order to stream?

      1. 1. Who says I have to have cable in the ground to pay TWC?

        2. Fixed Wireless.

  10. I assume you will still need a paid subscription.

    1. you scare me if you think it is going to be a free channel to all

      1. Patrick Mcglashon James Sunday, February 10, 2013

        why wouldnt it be. hbo go is if you have the service threw your cable provider.

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