from the pretending-to-be-open dept
But with the FCC considering new rules that would open up ye olde cable box to competition, Comcast is busy trying to portray itself as open to the changing competitive tides in the hopes of pre-empting new FCC regulations. The company this week is getting oodles of sudden praise for informing Recode that it will "allow" Netflix on to its X1 cable box:
"Said the pair in a statement: “Comcast and Netflix have reached an agreement to incorporate Netflix into X1, providing seamless access to the great content offered by both companies. We have much work to do before the service will be available to consumers later this year. We'll provide more details at that time." Sources said the deal to be on the cable giant’s set-top box would be akin to the arrangement that Netflix has cut with smaller cable operators in the United States and bigger ones across the globe.It's kind of amazing what the faintest threat of a regulator actually doing its job can do. And while that's great that Comcast is joining the modern era by making its cable boxes actually useful, it's still a problem that Comcast can determine what consumers can and can't access via cable boxes they own and rent, which are looking more and more antiquated in the Roku and smart phone era. That's why the FCC is proposing rules that would require cable providers to simply provide existing programming to third party hardware vendors, in the hopes of creating better, cheaper set top boxes free of traditional walled gardens.
Comcast's sudden about face comes hand-in-hand with the cable industry's attempt to pre-empt FCC regulation on this front with an "app-based" plan of its own. Under the cable industry's "counter proposal" to cable box competition, cable providers would instead be able to keep the traditional cable box and walled gardens intact, provided that it offered its own cable TV lineup via an "app" for third party streaming devices. And while that sounds great on its face, this being the cable industry the plan has a number of ingrained caveats, such as the fact to use DVR recording you'd still need to rent a cable box. This is not a $21 billion annual monopoly the cable sector will give up easily.
So while it's all well and good that Comcast is being slowly forced to join the modern era, it should be clear that this is Comcast trying to forestall real, open cable platforms, not embrace them. The fact that Comcast still needs to "allow" its customers access to the most popular online service potentially ever conceived remains the real problem.