Comcast, Roku ink deal for HBO, Showtime streaming

Will the reluctant truce entice cable subscribers back to Comcast?

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Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The dispute between Roku and Comcast has transformed into a deal which allows Comcast subscribers to stream content from HBO and Showtime -- after being denied such a service for years.

Most owners of the Roku streaming device have been able to subscribe to HBO Go and Showtime and then watch these channels through the device's Web-based apps. However, Comcast subscribers have been denied this service through the failure of apps to authenticate -- stemming from an ongoing dispute between the US Internet service provider and Roku.

On Monday, Re.Code discovered a filing dated Nov 25 which documents negotiations between Roku and Comcast which lasted "several months." An attorney for Roku told the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the deal means Comcast has "among other things, agreed to authenticate the HBO Go and Showtime Anytime apps on Roku video streaming devices."

In other words, if you are a Comcast subscriber, you will eventually -- and finally -- be able to use a Roku streaming device's apps to watch shows from HBO and Showtime.

The spat with Roku hardly did Comcast any good, and such restrictions -- especially considering the firm's "TV Everywhere" slogan -- may have left the company with unhappy subscribers. In a world where content availability is becoming ever-more seamless across multiple platforms, the ongoing dispute had to be resolved if Comcast wasn't going to lose business over the issue.

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In addition, Comcast is pushing ahead with a controversial deal to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion. While the US cable firm says the acquisition will improve levels of customer service, critics argue that the buyout would be anti-competitive and will hurt the over-the-top (OTT) video industry.

The main argument of companies including Dish Network is that OTT video -- such as Netflix and Hulu -- will be limited and damaged by the acquisition. Therefore, if Comcast can show some willingness to work with content providers and streaming services, Roku included, this may strengthen the firm's bid for the FCC to approve the merger.

In related news, HBO Go is now also available on the Amazon Fire TV set-top box. The HBO app is now available on the streaming service, however there is one caveat.

If you're a Comcast subscriber, you're out of luck.

In a statement, the online retail giant was quick to place the blame on Comcast, saying:

"Comcast is not currently supporting HBO GO on Amazon Fire TV. We'd love to provide HBO GO for Comcast customers on Fire TV and encourage those customers to reach out to Comcast for further information on availability."

According to Gizmodo, a Comcast spokesperson said negotiations with Amazon are ongoing. If Comcast and Amazon are going to avoid another years-long Comcast-Roku situation, let's hope the negotiations are successful.

Read on: In the enterprise

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