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Comcast Will Finally Let Roku Owners Stream HBO, Showtime

Just in time for a (possible) IPO and a (proposed) Time Warner Cable deal.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Many people who own Roku Web video boxes can use the devices to watch shows from HBO and Showtime. But not Comcast subscribers: A dispute between Roku and America’s biggest pay-TV provider has kept the networks’ streaming services off of Roku gadgets.

That should change soon.

The two companies reached a deal on Nov. 25, after negotiating for “several months,” an attorney for Roku told the Federal Communications Commission in a filing Monday.

The deal means “Comcast has, among other things, agreed to authenticate the HBO Go and Showtime Anytime apps on Roku video streaming devices.”

Translation: If you’re a Comcast customer who subscribes to HBO or Showtime, you should be able to watch those channels’ shows on the Web using your Roku box, just like everyone else. The letter doesn’t note when those streaming apps should start working. [UPDATE: Via a blog post, Comcast says the apps should start working today.]

The pact is timely for both companies. Roku, whose Web streaming devices compete with gadgets from Apple, Google and Amazon, as well as smart-TV manufacturers, is contemplating a public offering next year.

And Comcast* is trying to buy Time Warner Cable, and critics of the proposed deal are looking for every bit of ammunition they can find.

Neither Comcast or Roku has ever explained why Comcast subscribers couldn’t use their Roku boxes the same way other pay-TV subscribers — including those at Time Warner Cable — have done for years. And Comcast doesn’t prevent most other streaming devices, like Apple TV, from using HBO Go or Showtime Anytime. (Comcast, along with Charter, does prevent Amazon Fire TV users from streaming HBO.)

I’ve asked reps from Roku, Comcast, HBO and Showtime for comment.

* Comcast owns NBCUniversal, which is a minority investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.

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