Would you want a cable box that had Netflix built in, just like another channel?
That's what's happening starting today, when some smaller cable boxes from three smaller cable companies—Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications, and RCN—market a Netflix app that will let you watch streaming videos from Netflix directly from a TiVo-powered cable box.
Although this type of arrangement has been available in Europe, this is the first time Netflix has been available right from a cable box in the U.S. Customers have to have a cable-supplied TiVo set-top box and a Netflix subscription. According to reports, the cable boxes will use TiVo's new Roamio platform, with a faster processor to help videos load quicker.
Basically, Netflix will work like any other cable channel, so you just tune in the channel number where it appears, select it, then open the Netflix app. Netflix will be integrated into the cable channel guide. "Now, watching Netflix is as easy as changing the channel," David Isenberg, Atlantic Broadband's chief marketing and strategy officer, said in a statement.
Netflix, of course is already available on Internet TVs and Blu-ray players, set-top boxes such as the Apple TV and Roku, and through TiVo and video game consoles. But getting Netflix directly from your cable box does have a few advantages—namely you can use the cable box remote rather than a separate remote, and you don't have switch inputs on the TV.
Since the first deals are with smaller cable companies, Netflix will only be available to about 750,000 combined cable subscribers. But it's likely that Netflix is also talking to larger ones that could greatly increase its footprint. Right now it's unclear whether a cable company would have to use one of the TiVo cable boxes, or if Netflix could be deployed using one of the other advanced cable set-top boxes, such as Comcast's X1.
We'll keep monitoring all the news around Netflix and other streaming services, as well as the arrival of new set-top boxes. So keep checking back for the latest information.
—James K. Willcox