The streaming wars have been accelerating in 2021 with Disney+ and Netflix battling it out with aggressive content offerings despite slower streaming growth, consolidation of Disovery+ and Warner Media (which includes HBO Max), the evolution of CBS All Access to Paramount Plus and more. Now Comcast is in the news as reports swirl (feeding off an initial WSJ report) that they plan to make a big move that could affect the streaming landscape in a major way.
What’s up With Comcast?
What we know so far is that Comcast currently has a presence through its poorly-named streaming service Peacock, which is not attracting as many subscribers so far as they have hoped, despite offering a library of NBC-produced TV content and movies from Universal Studios.
In addition, Comcast’s Flex media streamer that it provides to Xfinity internet-only subscribers offers several popular streaming services (in addition to its Peacock services) but doesn’t have a reach to consumers beyond that.
As a result of the above, and other issues, there have been rumblings that Comcast may gamble on a new approach to penetrate the streaming market in a big way that could involve as many as four additional players: Viacom/CBS, Roku, Hisense, and Walmart.
One possible strategy for Comcast would include the following elements:
- Purchase Viacom/CBS to secure more content – although this could result in regulatory issues as Comcast owns the NBC broadcast TV network and CBS is a direct competitor. However, if the purchase when through this could eliminate Paramount Plus as a streaming competitor.
- Comcast would buy Roku to secure the rights to its massively popular streaming platform and then work with Hisense to develop a new revised Roku/Comcast streaming platform to incorporate into TVs (partnering with Hisense).
- Partner with Walmart to jumpstart a retail presence by the end of 2021 for such TVs under their own brand, but made by Hisense.
Deal or No Deal?
As of now, this is not close to a done deal and Comcast seems to be taking a “pure speculation,” and “no comment” attitude as to whether they will proceed with this or any plan to change its position in the streaming landscape.
However, something is going on as there has been a recent movement in both Viacom/CBS and Roku stock prices, but none of the prospective parties is saying anything, especially Roku, as one of its TV partners, TCL recently announced that is introducing a line of Roku TVs for the European market, starting with the U.K.
What Comcast Might Face if They Follow Through
If Comcast can’t secure ownership or rights to Roku or another streaming OS, it would be a tough road to develop and market their own for incorporation into a smart TV as they would be competing with several already established smart TV OS platforms that have been in use for some time in addition to Roku such as Android/Google TV, Samsung’s Tizen, LG’s WebOS, Vizio’s SmartCast, Fire TV OS (used in select Toshiba and Best Buy Insignia TVs), VEWD, and Apple’s tvOS which was just refreshed and made part of the Apple One package which includes Apple Music.
If something is up, it seems that rushing to market TVs and a new streaming strategy before the end of 2021 would be a very big gamble. If Comcast does plan this big move, it would be better to wait to debut their plan and demonstrate their products for the worldwide press at the next CES in January 2022 for maximum exposure for possible success.
It is also important to note that any Comcast plan might be thwarted by potential Government anti-trust or regulatory issues.
UPDATE 9/14/2021: It’s being reported that Comcast is getting closer to introducing its own Smart TV line, with the label “X Class TV”.
It also looks like the sets will come from Hisense as speculated previously. They are expected to be 4K sets and supplied in the 43 and 50-inch screen sizes and offer access to many popular streaming apps as well as coming with a voice remote. Walmart is in the mix as the principal retailer of the Comcast “X Class” TVs. No pricing or availability dates have been officially announced.
Comcast has not officially confirmed these reports, but there is supporting evidence, such as Comcast’s registration of the “X Class” trademark.
Although more details on the “X Class” TV line are pending, Comcast has officially confirmed that it’s releasing a new media streamer (XiOne) that will replace its current Flex Streamer. The XiOne is being rolled in Europe to Sky Q customers and is expected to start rolling out to current Xfinity Flex customers in the U.S.
The XiOne features faster processing and increased memory than the current Flex, enabling fast navigation in and out of content and apps. WiFi 6, 4K UHD, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos are supported. A compact voice remote is also included.
UPDATE 10/11/2021: Comcast Introduces Sky Glass TV in the UK and Europe
Although streaming is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, in the UK and Europe, Sky TV, which is delivered via Satellite, is still a major way that consumers receive their TV entertainment.
However, as the UK and Europe shift more to streaming, the end of satellite TV is inevitable. As a result, Comcast has come up with the Sky Glass TV which eliminates the need for a Sky Satellite dish and box, delivering both Sky and streaming content over the internet.
Stay tuned for more updates as they come in…