Netflix has reached an agreement with three smaller cable companies that, for the first time, will let U.S. subscribers watch the streaming video service’s content as though it were an ordinary cable channel.
The deal will add Netflix as an app to certain set-top boxes nationwide on RCN, Grande Communications and Atlantic Broadband. It gives subscribers of those companies the ability to watch the Netflix content they would otherwise be able to get only on their PCs, tablets and phones, or with a third-party set-top box.
Altogether, the agreement covers as many as 500,000 of the cable firms’ existing subscribers — though that figure could grow as more customers sign up for the offering.
To get the service when it launches Monday, customers must simultaneously subscribe to one of the three cable companies as well as Netflix itself. In addition, the technology requires a TiVo set-top box provided by the cable companies.
Although consumers can currently buy TiVos from retail stores that come with the Netflix app, until now cable-provided boxes lacked the Netflix functionality.
The agreement follows previous experiments by Netflix with pay-TV providers in Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Analysts said the move reflects Netflix’s broader ambitions to compete with the likes of cable-only services such as HBO.
“The entire cable television market is in the process of reinventing itself,” said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst. “Watching television on TV used to be the entire pie. Now it’s just one slice of it.”
Netflix’s agreement with RCN, Grande and Atlantic comes weeks after the streaming video service struck a controversial financial agreement with Comcast to ensure a smooth experience for consumers. The two deals, however, are distinct; whereas Netflix is paying Comcast to improve customers’ download speeds and viewing experience, Netflix is still unavailable from Comcast’s own cable box.
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