Comcast is trying to turn your Roku into a cable box

Roku on Tuesday announced that it is teaming up with Comcast to bring the cable company’s Xfinity TV app to its family of media-streaming boxes.

The app is in beta for now, but continues an ongoing trend of cable companies making their services available outside of the cable box. While you’ll still have to be an Xfinity TV subscriber to watch your shows, it makes it so Roku owners can access all their cable and streaming content on one device. The app itself includes both live and on-demand content.

As Variety notes, though, there’s a wrinkle: You’ll have to pay an additional monthly fee to use it. That comes on top of the monthly fee you have to pay for Xfinity TV service in the first place.

In other words, Comcast will treat your Roku similar to a cable box. There’s no fee in place today, but Comcast’s FAQ page says users “will be informed of the charges that will apply for connecting this device with your Xfinity TV service and will have the opportunity to opt in” once the app comes out of beta “later this year.”

Beyond that, Comcast says you’ll only be able to stream content to the beta version of Xfinity TV app if your Roku is connected to your in-home network. The company says this is because the app is not an internet service, despite needing an internet connection to work. Instead, Comcast calls it a “Title VI cable service” that only works on the company’s “private, managed cable network.”

Comcast won’t count usage of the beta app against your data cap for the same reason. The company also says that beta users will need to have at least one other Comcast-provided TV box (or CableCard) in their home to use the app due to “technical limitations,” though that will change once the finished app is available.

Comcast did not reply to a request for comment on how much it plans to charge Xfinity TV on Roku users. Variety says that the company currently charges $9.95 per month in service fees for each cable box they rent, with a $2.50 credit applied to those who use alternative equipment such as a TiVo.

The move is particularly notable in light of past attempts by former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to open up the set-top box market. His reform would have forced cable companies to make their services available through apps on major streaming platforms, Roku included, for free.

Wheeler put the proposal through multiple revisions, but ultimately could not get a majority vote before stepping down as chairman late last month. His GOP replacement, Ajit Pai, has since taken the issue off the FCC’s list of items on circulation.

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