Remember when TVs tuned analog cable channels without the need for a set-top box? Comcast’s newly announced deal with LG Electronics and another with Samsung will soon allow those makers’ high-end 4K smart TV sets to pull in pretty much everything digital, high resolution, and even ultra-high definition that Xfinity TV subscribers can currently nab on a Comcast X1 receiver.
Cleaning up the installation of wall-mounted and secondary location sets, a Comcast “gateway” (internet modem/router) will wirelessly zip shows to the TVs with an app, just the way it now serves shows to smartphones, tablets and laptops. The TV’s own remote control will navigate users through an X1-like program guide to live and on-demand programming, including content stored in the customer’s cloud DVR space.
Already available for tuning in “beta” (test) form on tiny Roku streaming TV boxes and plug-in sticks, the Xfinity TV Partners program and app leverages the ability to stream subscription content to TVs using Comcast’s “secure private managed network,” without counting against any internet service data caps and without the need for customers to use proprietary Comcast devices that come with $9.95 monthly fees.
In the beta phase, Comcast will give customers a $2.50 credit for using a Roku device instead of a primary conventional box, and will do likewise with the compatible smart TVs at launch, though the pricing could change.
Comcast first announced this alternative delivery system in 2016, when the Federal Communications Commission was pressing cable companies to open up the set-top box market. The company responded that box-free reception (which still allows Comcast to maintain control over the program guide and selection) would be an even better way to go.
The technology does require the TV to have a fairly modern, robust and compatibly tuned microprocessor. That’s why it will show up first (later this year) on 2016-and-later Samsung Smart TVs, then on current webOS-running LG Smart TVs (OLED and SuperHD) in early 2018.