Comcast wants to cut you loose from the cable box. No, seriously


Remember that whole #unlockthebox hashtag that was circling around Twitter a while back? It turns out that it actually made a real tangible change to the way cable boxes are going to be developed going forward.

The first company to enact the policy, it seems, will be Comcast who today announced two new partnerships with Roku and Samsung that will allow Xfinity subscribers to watch cable TV without renting a cable box from Comcast.

The initiative, called the Xfinity TV Partner Program, calls for a new app that will roll out to select Samsung TVs, Roku TVs and Roku players later this year.

Comcast has previously offered an Xfinity app on smartphones and tablets, however it was never offered in a standalone capacity before. Soon you'll be able to get everything a cable box provides including the Xfinity guide along with live and on-demand content, plus a cloud-based DVR without shelling out for a cable box that often runs between $10-20 per month.

In an email sent to techradar, Comcast explained that the Xfinity TV Partner app would be different than an over-the-top streaming service, and would be more akin to what users experience using a cable box.

"We remain committed to giving our customers more choice in how, when and where they access their subscription," said Comcast Business and Industry Affairs SVP Mark Hess. "And the Xfinity TV Partner Program enables us to efficiently and effectively expand the range of devices our customers can utilize to do that."

A press release explains that Comcast cracked the code to dropping a cable box by using a mix of open standard technologies, such as HTML5 to stream proprietary data to third-party devices.

The move to an app-based system and away from creating separate third-party hardware was one that Comcast SVP David Cohen was adamant about. After the #unlockthebox bill passed a few months ago, Cohen wrote a short blog post in which he said that the FCC's solution – which involved creating additional hardware – would do more harm than good.

Comcast's Xfinity Partner Program could be the win-win scenario the industry has been looking for. While Samsung and Roku are the first two members to sign onto the platform, Comcast says that it hopes to add more partners over the coming months before the service eventually rolls out to devices later this year.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.