Anxious to prove that apps really are the future of TV, Charter has packaged up its Spectrum TV service into an app for the Roku platform.
The new Spectrum app is available on retail boxes from Roku Inc. , as well as the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku TV sets. According to Charter, the app provides access to linear channels today and will include on-demand video offerings in the future. The Spectrum app for iOS and Android already supports roughly 160 linear channels and more than 9,000 on-demand titles.
This isn't the first time Charter Communications Inc. has showed off its TV service on a Roku box. At a press event at CES in January, the company highlighted a concept demo of the Spectrum Guide playing on a Roku-connected television. The main focus of that event was on Charter's deal with Cisco to develop new "Worldbox" set-tops. However, even amid the set-top cheerleading, Charter also made clear that it planned to rely less on dedicated set-tops in the future, and instead port its service to retail consumer devices where possible. (See Charter Thinks Outside the 'Worldbox'.)
Along with this week's announcement of the Spectrum TV app for Roku, Charter president and CEO Tom Rutledge also promised to extend the Spectrum service to "additional consumer electronic set-top boxes and screens."
Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) was the first operator to bring its app to the Roku platform more than two and a half years ago. However, while other cable operators have been slow to follow TWC's lead, the momentum is shifting. Notably, cable companies recently promoted the app approach to getting their content on new devices in discussions with the FCC around downloadable content security solutions. MSOs vastly prefer the idea of creating full-fledged apps for subscription television over the concept of a virtual headend strategy that would require them to separate any video content from their proprietary user interfaces. (See DSTAC: 2 Opposing Views on the Future of TV.)
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) are among the staunchest opponents of using apps to solve the content portability problem, but Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) appears to side with the cable industry. The company hailed apps as the future of television when announcing its new Apple TV device and tvOS in early September. However, support for the app approach comes even as Apple is rumored to be constructing its own pay-TV service. If that service materializes, then Apple can prominently promote its own TV app on tvOS. (See Apple Brings tvOS to Apple TV.)
One final note: The announcement of the Spectrum app for Roku falls in the middle of Charter's campaign to prove that it is consumer-friendly. The more it can convince regulators that it has consumers' best interests at heart, the more likely it will be that the government approves Charter's proposed acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks . On that front, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has now petitioned the FCC to put a hold on its merger review as a matter of public interest. The NAB's concerns stem from broadcast ownership rules, and fears that further industry consolidation will put local TV stations at a competitive disadvantage.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading