Netflix may come to cable set-top boxes soon

Faith Merino · October 14, 2013 · Short URL:

Netflix is in talks with cable providers to bring its app to their set-top boxes

Good news for the low tech friends in your life: they may be able to get Netflix through their cable providers soon if talks pan out.

Netflix is reportedly in talks with pay-TV providers, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T and Suddenlink Communications, to bring a Netflix app to their set-top boxes, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Currently, Netflix is only supported by specific Internet-connected devices, including Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, blu-ray players, and Boxee. But if you are neither a gamer nor are particularly interested in getting a blu-ray player for all the DVDs you’re not planning on buying, you would have to buy a single-use device like the Roku or Apple TV.

A deal with pay-TV providers would make Netflix available to a much wider pool of potential customers.

(I have a Roku box and I recently tried explaining what it does to my low-tech in-laws. Not a chance.)

Of course, there’s that problem where Netflix is sort of a competitor to pay-TV services. But that didn’t stop U.K. cable provider Virgin Media from making a deal with Netflix last month, even though it already offers an on-demand service. Now, the 1.7 million homes that use Virgin Media TiVo will now have access to Netflix.

For a growing number of households (mine included), Internet TV and video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video are becoming the alternative to pricey cable packages.

But for a lot of people, Netflix is simply an extra channel. A study released over the summer by TiVo Research Analytics found that the majority of Netflix subscribers aren’t watching Netflix instead of linear TV; they’re watching it alongside linear TV. Netflix households actually watched more premium TV than non-Netflix households, which makes sense. Netflix’s strategy is to become the go-to source for Internet TV, and it’s doing that by launching a string of high-profile, widely acclaimed original shows—in essence, making itself the HBO/Showtime/Starz/Cinemax for the Web.

And HBO households actually watch more TV than non-HBO households: 287 hours a week compared to 241 hours of TV a week, respectively.

But despite the similarities, Netflix isn’t just another premium channel and pay-TV providers are rightfully concerned about overlaps. One cable provider is concerned that a deal with Netflix could backfire if Netflix were to start selling pay-per-view movies that compete with the provider’s offerings, according to the WSJ.

The talks are reportedly in the early stages and no deal is actually on the table yet. That’s due in part to another big issue that cable providers are supposedly having with a potential deal: Netflix is reportedly insisting that the providers also adopt a special technology that improves the delivery of streaming video. Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T have all refused to adopt the technology out of fear that other online services would also ask for special treatment, according to the report.   

Last month, Netflix became the first non-linear TV service to win two Emmys for its House of Cards series. 


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