Comcast’s X1 and other cable operating systems are ‘going away,’ Roku content chief says

Comcast X1
Image: Comcast

Roku is betting against proprietary operating systems from cable operators, such as Comcast’s X1 platform and Charter’s Spectrum Guide. 

“The notion of a cable company building an operating system that’s adopted by hundreds of developers is going away, said Steve Shannon, general manager of content and services for Roku, speaking Tuesday at the Streaming Media West trade event in Huntington Beach, California. “It’s tough to get broad adoption of an operating system that’s really limited to a regional footprint.

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“All these third-party parochial operating systems are going to die,” Shannon added. 

Shannon manages a team of around 80 employees who oversee Roku’s growing staple of content partnerships. 

Comcast said during its third-quarter earnings report that nearly 45 percent of its video customers now have X1. And if you listen to the company’s recent earnings calls, the OS appears to be anything but dead, with the company attributing huge declines in subscriber churn mainly to the pricey platform. And X1 isn’t confined to just Comcast’s footprint, with Cox Communications and Rogers Communications both developing licensed white-label versions of X1.

Charter, meanwhile, is expanding Spectrum Guide’s footprint to include the acquired subscriber bases of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. 

Still, Shannon said it is only a matter of time before one of the top cable operators “hits the nuclear weapon,” taking an IP-based video system national. That will trigger a like response among other cable companies, which traditionally operated in regionally distinct friendship. 

“At some point, someone is going to step over the line and launch a national service, and the other is going to have to do it back,” Shannon said. “It’s going to be fun and interesting.”

The result, he added, will be the growth of choice for consumers, who currently only have three or four pay-TV bundles in their market from which to choose.

“There will be dozens of bundles to choose from, followed by a shakeout,” Shannon said. “If you think streaming is getting to be old-hat, well, we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s going to happen.”