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Samsung $150 smart box packs in streaming apps, cable

The player includes more than 100 apps such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, as well as Samsung's recommendation tool.

The Samsung Smart Media Player (GX-SM530CF) includes more than 100 smart TV apps and also enables cable content access.
Samsung on Thursday made its latest push into the smart TV market with a new "Smart Media Player" that lets users access both apps and live cable content.

The product, model No. GX-SM530CF, includes more than 100 smart TV apps such as Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. It also allows viewers to access live cable content without having to pay the expensive monthly rental fees associated with a cable box.

The media player will retail for $149.99 and will be available October 23.

Samsung noted that the Smart Media Player supports content from major cable providers. As long as the cable company uses CableCard technology, the box will be compatible, a Samsung spokesman said. Customers can rent a CableCard from their cable provider and insert it into the device, providing access to local channels and content.

Time Warner Cable, for one, rents its CableCards for $2.50 a month, the cable provider noted. But at least one major cable company, Cox, said the Samsung Smart Media Player is not integrated with its services.

While the box works with cable, it does have some limitations. The box is missing some key apps, such as Hulu and HBO Go. It also doesn't offer on-demand or DVR capabilities, a Samsung spokesman said. Lack of access to a cable company's on-demand video channels is a problem that has plagued third-party CableCard devices like TiVo.

A Time Warner Cable spokeswoman said her company is working with Samsung to make on-demand content available along with live programming. She didn't provide a timeline for when that could happen.

Though Samsung is well known for its mobile devices, TVs are what really made the company a household name. Along with selling the displays themselves, the company also has been making a big push with smart TVs and media-streaming boxes. Earlier this month, the company announced US availability for its $299 HomeSync media center that lets people store, sync, and stream content from their Samsung devices to their TVs.

The HomeSync and the Smart Media Player are two ways Samsung is trying to create an ecosystem and attract more buyers. However, both boxes face steep competition in the media player and streaming content arena, including from Apple, Roku, and Google. New entrants such as Sony and Intel also are trying to address the market. If Samsung's Smart Media Player works seamlessly with content from cable providers, it stands a good chance.

Samsung noted that using the Smart Media Player's provided remote, viewers can switch easily between cable content, movies, games, and other smart TV content with a "simple finger swipe." The player also includes S-Recommendation, Samsung's software that helps customers discover what they want to watch without surfing channels. It becomes smarter over time and will recommend content to watch live or in the future.

In addition, the Smart Media Player comes loaded with AllShare, which allows viewers to share content from their mobile devices to their TV from anywhere. And the Screen Mirroring feature lets viewers easily share video and buttons on their TV via a compatible smartphone or tablet.

Update, October 21 at 2:15 p.m. PT and 1:10 p.m.: Adds details from Samsung and includes information from cable companies.