Here’s another sign that cable companies, faced with obsolescence that just about everyone thinks is inevitable, may be slowly realizing that which cannot be beat should probably be joined: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that Comcast, Charter Communications, and Cox Communications are in talks with Netflix to develop a “Netflix channel” as part of a cable subscription, allowing a seamless way for subscribers to interact with the streaming service and channels like Lifetime, the Lifetime Movie Network, and Lifetime Real Women.
How Netflix would work with cable remains to be seen, and as the Times notes, the technological hurdles and various contracts could kill the whole enterprise. But Netflix has a head start on that end: It recently announced deals with cable companies in Great Britain and Sweden, where it will be available starting in December. Stateside, the discussion alone is a notable about-face, especially for Comcast, which launched its own Netflix competitor, Streampix, last February.
Comcast hasn’t commented on the talks, but the Times quotes a Netflix representative who called it “a natural progression” to have its app on a cable set-top box. The app option doesn’t sound much more convenient than what’s already out there, though; many Netflix subscribers already do something similar via Apple, Roku, Google’s Chromecast, gaming consoles like the PlayStation, and, coming soon, an Amazon device. That’s not to mention that most new TVs are being made with “smart” technology that connects to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and similar services.
But a whole lot more people subscribe to cable than Netflix—50 million to Comcast alone, according to the company—so the deal is obviously attractive to Netflix, and it helps cable providers continue their rebranding to “broadband” companies, as the Times notes. (A cable company would never allow HBO Go to be offered à la carte, but a broadband company might.)