Time Warner Cable Introduces Live TV App for Roku

Mar 19, 2013 by

Aligned with Roku’s announcement for the Roku 3, Time Warner Cable introduced the TWC TV app for Roku. With the new app, Time Warner Cable (TWC) customers with Digital TV service can stream live TV through a newer Roku box.  TWC TV is already available on other platforms—including iOS and Android—but despite hints we’ve seen at CES over the past few years, this is the first time they’ve packaged it for leanback viewing. Like Verizon’s FiOS app for Xbox, TWC TV lets you use a Roku as a replacement for a traditional set-top box. Unlike Verizon’s FiOS app for Xbox, the hardware is inexpensive, you don’t have to pay an additional premium subscription fee, and you get a great selection of channels.

TWC TV doesn’t make every channel available, though. Some premium stations that have their own apps on the platform (e.g., ESPN and HBO, among others) are not available, but based on your cable package, you can access as many as 300 or your channels through the app.

Now before you  go running out to replace all of your TWC set-top boxes with svelte, new Roku 3s, consider this: TWC TV is not a DVR and offers no DVR-like capabilities. Channels are presented as a series of network logo tiles showing no information about what’s showing on any channel until it’s in focus. And forget about trick-play features like pause, rewind, or fast forwarding through commercials. This is strictly live TV streaming. But don’t misunderstand…this is still a great thing, and it’s a likely, inexpensive alternative to having a clunky, old set-top box in a bedroom or kitchen.

We had the chance to play with the app firsthand at SXSW last week, and we talked with a TWC spokesperson at the event. He pointed out some of the nicer features of the app, including browsing favorites, finding movies, setting parental controls, and the ability to view all regions of specific sports networks—something you can’t even do on your Time Warner Cable DVR! He and TWC’s own product manager for the app have confirmed that they’re looking to roll out on-demand content at some point. And while it’s not a DVR now, one can speculate about the possibilities that cloud storage could enable in the future.

The interface itself is pretty snappy, but forget about channel surfing. It takes about 4 or 5 seconds to tune a channel once it’s selected, and the video quality, like Netflix and other online services, takes a few more seconds to refine. TWC may have taken the new discovery model a little too far, though. We couldn’t find any key combination on the Roku remote that allowed channel flipping—we had to go back to the channel tiles, stopping the active video playback, to choose another channel. And there’s nothing even remotely similar to a traditional guide that shows you at a glance what’s on now across multiple channels. We’re hoping these things are on the list of future product improvements.

TWC TV is available to Time Warner Cable customers with a standard cable subscription or higher, and it will work anywhere on your home network. You don’t technically even need to use TWC as your broadband provider, but it sounds like setup is a lot easier if you are. It’s available for the Roku 3, and it will be available shortly for the Roku 2, Roku HD, Roku LT, and the Roku Streaming Stick.

Find out how to get TWC TV in the Roku Channel Store.

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