Cable Companies Still Haven’t Learned the Content Everywhere Lesson

Nov 20, 2014

About a month ago I shocked my family and friends by finally breaking down and buying a new television for my living room. For years I've been enduring the jeers of my friends who claimed they couldn't read the score of the game, and pretending I just needed to adjust the settings to see things more clearly. Recently, though, I started thinking about replacing my Roku box-one of the earliest models-and though I loved it, thought maybe it was smarter to just replace it with a smart TV.

Originally I thought I'd wait for the holiday sales, but before I knew it a deal turned up in my inbox and I was the proud new owner of a television that I could lift on my own. Everything was going well until I tried to download the Xfinity app. I searched and searched, but as it turned out Comcast's Xfinity app is not compatible with many-or most-televisions. Being a resourceful lass, I figured I'd go get a Chromecast and just toss the content from my iPad to the TV.

Alas, that was not to be either. As it turns out, Xfinity is only compatible with Chromecast when you're watching from your Chrome browser. According to joshuatrueander on the Comcast forum, "you cannot cast xfinity app from cell phone or tablet. ONLY from your web browser on your computer... and it streams like S@#T." I concurred. My boyfriend and I had been sitting on the couch wondering why the quality was so great when we were streaming from the YouTube app on my iPad, but was so terrible when we wanted to watch Homeland through Xfinity in my browser. We thought the problem was my WiFi connection. Turns out it was Comcast.

I got curious about other cable providers and their apps. I did some Googling and wasn't surprised to find more of the same. I checked the list of Chromecast-ready apps and didn't find one for AT&T, TimeWarner, or any of the companies I searched for.

You know what I did find? Chromecast-ready apps for networks like ESPN, ABC, HBO, Disney, BBC, and more. It probably goes without saying that I also found apps for Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and Vevo.

Are cable companies laboring under the illusion that they can keep customers by simply refusing to provide them with an easy, decent way to watch web content on their internet-connected televisions? This may be the last chance cable providers have to prove their value, and they are tossing it away.

HBO already announced that in 2015 people will be able to subscribe through HBO GO without a valid cable subscription. Other premium channels are sure to follow. I can already get the broadcast channels in HD for free thanks to an antenna, and frankly I'm not interested in paying for hundreds of channels I don't watch just to get the few I do. Cable does not offer me much at this point, and I am not alone. But I'd rather not have to download the apps for each of those networks I mentioned before. I'd rather just download one app, and that's where the cable companies come in-or, at least, that's where they should come in.

We can't say it enough: People want the right content, at the right time, on the right device. Letting us watch it on our laptops or mobile devices is nice, but it's not good enough for the long haul-and a half-hearted attempt at letting users stream content to their televisions just is not going to keep users from ditching your service and cutting the cord.

Related Articles

There are many lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of Gigaom. The thing that struck me, though, was that this seemed to be an argument for ad-supported media. You don't hear many of those these days. We're used to hearing about newspapers and websites shutting down after dwindling ad revenue is not enough to keep them afloat. We see The New York Times and its ilk instating paywalls to help pad the bottom line. Rarely, however, do we hear cautionary tales of companies that dared to experiment with different monetization strategies and lost.