Netflix courts cable companies to give viewers "frictionless" access

Netflix last week publicly reaffirmed its steadfast desire to partner with U.S. cable companies to bundle streaming Netflix programming as an app in set-top boxes like TiVo, but so far the industry in this country has not embraced Netflix's advances. For cable companies, the streaming video service's 27 million American subscribers represent competition, not a new market or an opportunity to add value.

Internationally, Netflix only has about 7 million subscribers all told, making them a little less frightening to companies like Virgin Media in the U.K. and Com Hem AB in Sweden, both of which have recently signed deals to add Netflix as a TiVo DVR app to complement their existing cable programming services. Virgin Media has 1.7 million TiVo subscribers and Com Hem AB has 1.8 million, bringing Netflix 3.5 million closer to its stated goal of amassing 60 to 90 million customers.

Consumers can already watch Netflix on their TVs via game consoles, Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets and devices like Roku. When cable companies include Netflix as an app, users don't have to switch devices to navigate from a TV guide to a Netflix menu. "We are always in discussions to expand the universe of devices that run Netflix, and that includes set-top boxes inside and outside the U.S.," Netflix spokesperson Joris Evers told Time. "We want to make access to Netflix as easy and frictionless as possible."

The benefit to cable companies for snuggling up to Netflix include making cable more attractive to streaming video fans and taking advantage of Netflix-exclusive programming. The company's latest original offerings include Ricky Gervais' Derek, a Bloomberg-backed documentary about the 2008 financial debacle, and an Aziz Ansari stand-up comedy special slated for November.

SOURCE: Bloomberg