During an appearance at the OTT Blitz event Warren Schlichting (Former EVP and President), Sling TV noted that major Internet providers like Comcast appear to be reshaping their model to allow themselves to provide streaming video service platforms in the future as apposed to relying on video delivery. Schlichting pointed out specifically that Comcast will be offering Sling TV through its Internet only Flex boxes which offer numerous streaming services both free and premium.
It is an interesting observation that may turn out to be prescient. Roku and Amazon have been accused of acting like cable companies for a reason. The platforms are a delivery system that puts content in front of consumers and in turn makes money from advertising. While Roku and Amazon Fire TV products operate without subscriptions or fees, they are both attempting to flex their market share to get profitable deals between themselves and services. Late in 2019 Roku even faced a blackout of Fox based apps. This was not unlike the fights between cable providers and channel owners that often lead to standoffs over retransmission fees and in some cases permanent loss of channels.
Long time observers will remember Apple TV’s push to be a default cable box replacement. The attempt was largely rejected at the provider level. Apple has instead worked out partnerships with major providers like Spectrum to offer apps that allow users to automatically sign in to their cable companies interactive apps. But Apple like Roku and Fire TV is also positioning itself as a marketplace, billing and delivery system for major premium channel based streaming services like HBO. The three companies are taking on the cable company’s role of allowing users to subscribe to services directly through their OTT boxes. The cable companies may start to take the control back or at least they may be adjusting to the fact that the future of premium TV may be streaming services that utilize their own broadband networks instead of the traditional bundles that they offered for years. If all of the companies begin to offer their own streaming boxes the major streaming hardware companies may need to rethink their role and work again to be as consumer friendly as possible in order to avoid being blocked out by more established companies.