Comcast, Charter JV Xumo to launch smart TVs with Element

Xumo, a streaming joint venture between Comcast and Charter, plans to launch a new line of UHD 4K smart TVs in the U.S. this year from Element Electronics.

Xumo didn’t disclose details about sizes or pricing, other than to say it will offer “a range” of Element Xumo TVs at select U.S. retail locations later in 2023. The TVs will come with a voice remote, along with Comcast’s integrated interface, providing access to live and on-demand streaming content “from hundreds of apps and services.”

“Element and Xumo share a common vision of delivering consumers premium, innovative entertainment experiences at a tremendous value,” said Marcien Jenckes, president at Xumo, in a statement.

The smart TVs will be powered by Comcast’s tech platform, already used in devices including XClass TVs. XClass TVs, which have been sold in Walmart retail locations since 2021, were Comcast’s first foray into the smart TV market and one of the products that now fall under the Xumo brand. The Element Xumo TVs add to that portfolio, which also includes the Flex 4K streaming device that’s available to Xfinity broadband customers.

Formed in April 2022, Comcast and Charter joined forces on the JV to develop and offer a next-gen streaming platform on branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs. In November the JV announced its name as Xumo – the former branding of Comcast’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service which as a result got the new name Xumo Play.

The announcement of Xumo smart TVs comes the same week that Roku debuted its first line of Roku-branded TVs, expected to be available later this year.

With more streaming players getting in on the smart TV action, TVREV analyst Alan Wolk in a recent column pointed to the importance of owning the smart TV interface.

“They are the gatekeepers for programming: which apps to allow on the interface, how easy they are to find, how much those programmers have to pay to have their content featured on the home screen,” wrote Wolk. “Owning the OS also gives those companies a lot of data about program and ad viewership that they can both monetize and use to improve the consumer experience.”

They can also drive revenue from tune-in advertising and their own FAST services, he noted. Smart TV makers in the U.S. are already following this model, including Samsung, Vizio and LG. Dominant in the U.S., Samsung last year announced it would start licensing its Tizen OS to third-party smart TV makers. Amazon, meanwhile, started building branded smart TVs in 2021.

Alongside news of the Xumo smart TVs, Xumo Enterprise, the business-to-business arm of the JV, announced an expanded set of tools for building, managing and monetizing FAST channels and services.

One of the new capabilities enables content owners to manage their own FAST channels in a self-service content management system (CMS). The PGA Tour is an early partner that has signed on to utilize the CMS tool to manage its FAST channel across various platforms.

Other capabilities from Xumo Enterprise include FAST channel syndication, linear channel creation and distribution, monetization and optimized ad insertion, yield management and data insights, and white-labeled streaming services for OEMs and distributors.

“As more streamers look to supplement their subscription services with free programming, FAST services are becoming an increasingly popular way for content owners and advertisers to reach new viewers,” said Stefan Van Engen, VP of Content Acquisition and Programming at Xumo, in a statement. “Since 2016 we have powered many of the leading FAST channels and services globally, and today’s announcement provides the growing industry with even more tools to maximize an existing FAST offering or create a new one.”

Xumo said its enterprise unit saw “unprecedented growth” in 2022 alongside FAST adoption, with the company delivering 65% more streaming hours to its enterprise clients throughout the year than it did in 2021.