Netflix’s Deal With Cable Operators And Apple
October 15, 2013

Netflix’s Deal With Cable Operators And Apple

Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal both claim Netflix is in talks with cable companies to bring their service to cable boxes. Oh the horror!

There’s a lot of new technology floating around that people incorrectly refer to as “disruptive,” but the seemingly inevitable cable-less future could be truly upsetting to an existing marketplace.

In every sense of the word, Netflix and those who support cable-cutters are truly disruptive.

On the surface, a cable box with Netflix installed looks like a bit of a compromise on the cable companies’ end. Perhaps they recognize that they’re fighting a losing battle and are choosing to give in rather than grind their gears flat fighting. And there may be an element of this in their decision, but I see it another way.

The cable companies, namely Comcast, Time Warner and Suddenlink, are recruiting Netflix in their fight against Apple, Google, IBM, Roku and anyone else who wants to upend the old model of delivering bloated content packages at premium prices.

As it stands, Netflix is available nearly everywhere. You almost have to go out of your way to avoid them. Nearly any electronic box you can put in your living room already has Netflix built in. Yet for as popular as they’ve become (remember when everyone wanted to leave then en masse over that whole charging extra for streaming thing?) they’re still a popular feature for boxes like Apple TV, Roku or hell, even Chromecast.

Clearly there are other reasons to adopt these boxes and bring them into your home — streaming content from your phone to the TV, for instance, is reason enough to drop 99 bucks on the Apple TV — but building in Netflix wasn’t merely an afterthought for Apple’s engineers. If you don’t already have Netflix on your Xbox or television, you can get it on one of these boxes in addition to the other conveniences they offer.

Building Netflix into the box you already get your cable through is a matter of simple yet significant convenience. Sure, you can watch Netflix on your Apple TV, for instance, but you have to switch inputs and remotes just to get to it. Oh those first world problems.

Accessing this streaming service directly from the same box without switching channels or remotes or even position on the couch could be be all that’s needed to sway people away from the current third-party offerings.

I may be selling the Apple TV and others short. Specifically, the ATV is best seen as a $99 accessory to nearly ANY Apple device you have in your house. iOS devices can stream content to the box and even use it to mirror the screen. When OS X Mavericks is released sometime this month, it will turn the Apple TV into a second display, a huge help for multitaskers and boardroom presenters alike.

Roku, also, is still a great offering without Netflix, allowing users to watch Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus videos as well.

In this writer’s opinion, a partnership between the cable companies and Netflix is an affront, albeit a small one, against the rising trend of cutting the cord. We’ve already seen cable companies shy away from talks with Apple, going so far as to threaten content providers who offer their wares to the ATV. Building in one of the most popular streaming services directly into their box, giving them data on what’s being watched and and when, could be a huge boon for Comcast, Time Warner and the rest.

If Apple and the others don’t offer customers a truly great reason to switch (or if they can’t reach an agreement with cable operators) the inclusion of Netflix could be an even more powerful weapon.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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