On the heels of a 2012 push to bolster its multiscreen strategy, Time Warner Cableis porting TWC TV to the Roku platform. Complementing existing services on iOS, Android, and PC devices, TWC TV will bring 300 live-linear channels to the platform; TWC has not yet specified in which markets the service will initially launch. TWC TV will be accessible exclusively within the home, in Time Warner Cable double-play households who subscribe both to television and broadband.
While TWC launched its multiscreen service relatively late in relation to the major US operators - TWC TV's initial implementation on the iPad debuted well into 2011 - the operator has been at the forefront of bringing live linear channels to unmanaged CE devices. All of the principal US cable, satellite, and IPTV providers now deliver a mix of linear and non-linear IP video to at least iOS and Android devices, but in terms of channel count, TWC TV for Roku stands alone.
More interestingly, the Roku deployment suggests that TWC has substantially redirected its strategy for delivering IP-video to the TV set. Were CES 2012 demonstrations to be believed, TWC was on the cusp of launching a dedicated service to Samsung and Panasonic Smart TVs a year ago. Indeed, as far as CES 2012 was concerned, TWC signalled unambiguously that it intended to reach the connectable set via its native ability to run applications. One year on, the dedicated application for Samsung and Panasonic Smart TVs has yet to see the light of day.
Regardless of whether Smart TV plans have been shelved or not, neither the Roku deployment nor an eventual IETV launch should be understood as an eschewal of set-top box (STB) procurement. Roku serves as an excellent means of bringing TWC content to ancillary screens in the home, but double-play subscribers will still require at least one set-top to access the service. The decision to launch on Roku is a strategy to secure presence on a device that, over time, could threaten to erode revenues derived from pay-TV subscriptions on the primary set.
While collectively, US operators have managed to bring pay-TV services to the Xbox 360, the PS3, Smart TVs, and now Roku, deployments across these open-but-secure platforms are anything but homogenous across operators. Now that the iOS universe has effectively been addressed by all major US providers, it will be interesting to see whether these fixed platforms are co-opted en masse in 2013.