Comcast and Time Warner Cable, looking to neutralize the threat posed by over-the-top video services, struck partnerships with Samsung to let cable subscribers more easily find and watch content on a variety of Samsung TVs, tablets and smartphones.
The alliances, announced during Samsung president Boo-Keun Yoon's keynote here at the Consumer Electronics Show, are notable given widespread speculation that Internet-connected TVs and other devices would undermine the traditional TV business by fueling "cord cutting." In partnering with Samsung, the two biggest U.S. cable operators believe that embracing Internet-connected devices will be a key way to enhance the value of their subscription products.
"Smart TVs are a really important part of Comcast Xfinity and our plans to provide a fantastic next-generation experience," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said. He added that tablets and smart TVs are "radically changing how customers interact with TV and making it easy to access the entertainment they want anytime, anywhere."
Earlier in the week, Sony announced a similar agreement with Time Warner Cable, under which the cable operator will deliver its full lineup of TV programming to Sony Internet-connected Bravia televisions sometime in 2011.
Time Warner Cable anticipates beginning to offer the apps commercially on Samsung devices later this year. Comcast's Xfinity TV apps also will be distributed later this year on the Samsung Smart TVs and on the application store for the Galaxy products.
The operators did not provide technical details on how the features will work. However, Comcast's implementation on the Samsung TVs will interact with customers' existing set-top boxes, whereas TWC will deliver IP programming directly to the sets.
"Ultimately, consumers just want to watch the video when they want, where they want -- and have them work," Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt.
In announcing the alliances during a keynote, Yoon noted that it was part of the company's strategy to make is easy for consumers to access content anywhere, anytime on their devices but that they realized they couldn't do it all themselves.
"To make this a reality... we have decided to take a collaborative path to work with leading companies in each sector," he explained, before introducing Roberts and Britt, who demonstrated how their cable systems would work Samsung devices into their subscription offerings.
Comcast positioned the Samsung alliance as building on Project Xfinity, the MSO's initiative to give consumers access to all content on all devices announced three years ago at CES. According to Roberts, this marks the first time Xfinity TV services will be available on connected TVs.
The app would provide a rich, Web-like interface, enabling simpler navigation and the ability to search across linear TV, DVR recordings, and video-on-demand among tens of thousands of content choices.
Roberts also demonstrated how the partnership would deliver an integrated multiplatform viewing experience on Samsung smart TVs and the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Using the tablet, Xfinity TV digital customers will be able to watch TV programming and movies on the tablet, browse for video content, change the channel on a Samsung smart TV and program DVRs.
Ultimately, the service will allow consumers to start watching a movie on the tablet and then resume watching it on a Samsung Smart TV where it was paused.
On Time Warner Cable systems, owners of Samsung TVs will be able to access live and on-demand TV with a full program guide on the Samsung Smart TVs and Samsung Galaxy Tab, Britt noted during his demonstration.
In addition to watching live TV on the Smart TV and Tab, Britt also demonstrated how Time Warner Cable customers could access recorded content from a DVR elsewhere in the home directly on the Samsung Smart TV, without the need for a connected set-top box, creating a multiroom experience in homes that had more than one connected TV.
Britt also said that subscribers could use the Samsung Galaxy Tab to search through content and use the tablet to change channels or start on demand programming.
Also during the keynote, Samsung's Yoon highlighted his company's alliance with Hulu, which makes its Hulu Plus service available on Samsung Smart TVs, as well as partnerships with DreamWorks Animation for 3D movies and Adobe Systems.
The partnership with Adobe will bring AIR and Flash to the Samsung smart TVs and devices, which the company hopes will encourage developers to create more apps for the products. Flash already has some 3 million developers worldwide.