Comcast intends to expand its X1 and Flex video platforms beyond its U.S. cable footprint and those plans could materialize as soon as 2021.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the cable giant is currently working with Walmart and TV manufacturer Hisense on smart TVs that hit retail outlets later this year. Those smart TVs, which would offer a lineup of streaming apps like set-top boxes running X1 or Flex, may even carry Comcast branding.
The new rumors push forward reports from late last year that Comcast was working with Walmart and a third-party manufacturer to produce smart TVs under Walmart’s onn. brand.
Comcast’s smart TVs will reportedly place the spotlight on Peacock, the company’s ad-supported streaming service that has attracted 42 million sign-ups since launching in 2020.
A favorable connected TV environment could help Peacock catch up to its peers in terms of subscribers and subscription revenue. In April, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said Peacock’s sign-ups include monthly active accounts (MAA), which are defined as households that pay subscription fees or people who use the service monthly. He said approximately one-third (or 14 million) fit into the MAA category but according to the Wall Street Journal, fewer than 10 million pay for Peacock as of May 2021.
While Comcast looks to grow its streaming advertising and subscription revenues, the company could be close to grabbing piece of the connected TV hardware market. Comcast has been forthright about its intentions to take X1 and Flex out to a larger addressable market. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts last year confirmed his company’s interest in the smart TV market.
“We’re early days but we’re looking at smart TVs on a global basis, and we’re wondering if we can bring our same tech stack and certain capabilities in aggregation to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs,” he said during an investor event.
Comcast has already syndicated the X1 platform for other cable operators in the U.S. and Canada and Roberts said his company sees a similar roadmap to that for smart TVs. But a smart TV OS strategy would place Comcast in direct competition with Amazon, Google and Roku, who battle over space in the third-party smart TV OS landscape. Major TV OEMs like Samsung, Vizio and LG have all developed their own smart TV platforms.