Bowdoin’s overhaul of its cable television service will now allow students to stream and watch live TV on smartphones and laptops. In an email to students on December 21, Information Technology announced that students can access the new service, provided by Xfinity, through a Roku streaming player, a Roku compatible television, or a personal electronic device. The Information Technology department has a limited number of Rokus available for loan to students.
According to Steve Blanc, associate chief information officer, the College has been considering the change for the past five or six years. The College only decided to make the switch now after ascertaining that the technology is ready and has worked well on other campuses.
“The channels that have been important to folks, largely around certain sports channels, are part of the new package,” Blanc explained. “With Xfinity you’ll be able to watch TV on your device wherever you want, and there’s a full DVR system as well so you can record shows and watch them later.”
Additionally, keeping the current cable TV system would have required costly maintenance.
“We’re in a comfortable spot for having a service that’s going to be reliable and work,” Blanc said.
The Xfinity system will require significantly less hardware than its predecessor. Bowdoin currently has a room of equipment, located in Sills Hall, for the current cable system. The new system is cost-effective, Blanc said, as it prevents what would have been necessary spending to update the current equipment.
“With the Xfinity system there are a pair of fibers that come and plug into our equipment, and that’s the only equipment we have to maintain,” Blanc said.
He admitted, however, that the switch will not save much money in the long term.
“I expect largely a wash because the bulk of TV cost is actually in the content, and you’re paying for the content no matter who the provider is,” Blanc said. “The main difference is with Xfinity there is no capital outlay.”
The current TV cables in College housing will be turned off on March 1, and the cables themselves will be removed over the summer. The Xfinity system will feature a similar number of channels, but will provide more high definition (HD) channels.
While it is unclear exactly how much user engagement will change. Blanc guessed the new system will attract more users. Citing the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu on computers and mobile devices, he imagined students might take advantage of the service when they can’t get back to their room to use their own television.
Many students expressed excitement about the opportunities presented by the Xfinity service.
“I’m excited about it because it means me and my roommate get to watch the Celtics on NBC Sports Network,” said Jacob Rose ’21.
“I’m excited to have some premium channels like TBS with good content,” said Arman Kothari ’22. “The Roku definitely makes it easier because all I have to do is download an app and I can watch right away.”