Xumo Enterprise snags another win, powers FAST channels for TCL refresh

Xumo, a joint venture of Comcast and Charter, snagged another high-profile customer for its enterprise FAST channel integration services, this time supporting smart TV maker TCL, Xumo Chief Revenue Officer Colin Petrie-Norris shared with Fierce Video.

In an interview, Petrie-Norris said Xumo Enterprise is a privileged launch partner for TCL, bringing 55 free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels to the OEMs’ TVs across the U.S. and North America in “a new and improved way” as part of a larger planned refresh by the Chinese manufacturer. TCL has already been in the FAST space with its TCL Channel app, which is also available on TCL-made Roku TVs as well as the Google Play store (TCL also makes TVs running Google TV OS), but it’s gearing up for a revamped approach.

While Petrie-Norris declined to share further details as TCL will provide more specifics when it launches, he did tease a few things. For one, TCL will have a new name for its TCL Channel app, along with “an entirely new approach, new strategy and new service,” which it plans to announce along with the Xumo channel offering later this summer.

“TCL is really an exciting new partner for us,” he said, noting the companies have worked together for a long time “but this is a really big refresh strategy for them.”

Other details, such as which TV models and brands will roll out the new FAST experience and whether it will be a native app, will be disclosed by TCL at a later date.

Petrie-Norris will be discussing more about TCL and Xumo during an opening keynote presentation at the StreamTV Show in Denver next Tuesday, June 13. Register now to join in-person or tune into the livestream.

The TCL win follows earlier customer successes, including with Google TV, which tapped Xumo Enterprise in April to power 77 of its native FAST channels in a revamp to its free Live TV. Notably, those channels are also rolling out on the widely-deployed Android TV operating system. In addition, Xumo’s since marked integrations with Comcast’s  Xfinity Stream app and been incorporated into the operator’s new TV Now offering for Xfinity customers – with Xumo serving as the exclusive FAST channel provider for those platforms.

High-quality content channels

Xumo Enterprise offers a dual tech and content solution, and while some customers opt for tech-only, TCL is taking both under the partnership.

According to Petrie-Norris, the sequence of launches and wins with high-profile partners in part shows the high quality of channels Xumo brings to the table – an aspect he sees as a key differentiator from other vendors in the space. 

“We are at that high-quality end of the spectrum… this is why a company like TCL and others are using us as we obviously provide this full turnkey approach with content plus technology,” he said. “But really, the quality of the channels which we provide are really what’s setting us apart here.”

And having content viewers will keep tuning into, along with a positive ad experience, is key as FASTs generate revenue from advertising which follows the requisite eyeballs.

To that point, a Yahoo and Publicis Media study on CTV ad attention found that while FAST apps underperform on average for viewers paying attention to commercials (compared to paid subscriptions that overperform), some stand out – with the consumer-facing Xumo FAST specifically marking a bright spot. Even compared across leading SVODS, AVODs, vMVPDs, smart TV FASTs and pure-play FASTs, Xumo ranked first for attention, with 47%. That compares to a collective attention percentage for FASTs of 28%, and to the next-best performing FAST in the study, The Roku Channel at 34% (which placed five spots behind Xumo at number six).  The study considered a variety of factors, such as the number of repeat ads and how likely people stay tuned in, for a combined attention ranking.

While Xumo in its current iteration – as a joint venture between Comcast and Charter formed just last year – is newer to the market, it has roots dating back before the FAST acronym even surfaced, helping to build LG Channels for smart TV maker LG from start to finish.

FAST service-in-a-box

The Xumo business is composed of three segments: its consumer-facing Xumo Play FAST service; a Xumo OS or device arm that includes Xumo-branded smart TVs and a forthcoming Xumo Stream Box; and Xumo Enterprise – the latter which is able to lean on learnings from the DTC Xumo offering to improve products it offers to customers.

Asked who it sees as Xumo Enterprise competitors, Petrie-Norris acknowledged familiar vendor names such as Amagi, Wurl and Frequency are who it’s most often compared to (separately, on Thursday, Wurl and Frequency announced their own strategic partnership). However, he believes Xumo brings more to the table, one through offering quality content but also through access to and for partners, leaning on its long-built relationships to help companies enter the space and grow. 

Essentially, Xumo Enterprise is aiming to serve customers a FAST service-in-a-box, Petrie-Norris said. For its large platform customers, Xumo can deliver “very quickly and in short order, a lot of very high-quality channels.”

But it’s the content partners that the revenue chief said Xumo often looks to as its first customers in some sense, as they’re highly invested in making their FAST channel a rich and attractive experience, while also looking to find a way into larger platforms.

“Really, we are here because our content partners want to take us into these places,” he said.

So while Xumo Enterprise now has some large turnkey integrations under its belt, Petrie-Norris said there’s also “dozens of monthly channel launches” on an individual channel-by-channel basis with different providers. Xumo doesn’t discuss those much, he noted, as the content partner typically likes to announce deals with launching on, say, a Samsung, Roku, Freevee or other service.

“We’re the engine behind that. But then, we’re also, from the platform’s perspective, providing these big integrations where it can get quickly into the space in a very concrete, really meaningful way.”

It’s another way Xumo is looking to stand out in the market, often starting with a certain number of channels for a partner but then going on to “add dozens and sometimes hundreds more channels” into the space.  “It’s quite hard to get access,” he noted, as well as a high bar required by streaming platforms that, for example, want a certain level of quality, specific types of ad experiences or technology installed in a certain way.

“For us that really is where we stand out as bringing these new platforms into the market and then helping them scale,” Petrie-Norris commented.

Gauging success and why yield per hour matters

In terms of what Xumo Enterprise clients are using to gauge success with the vendor, Petrie-Norris called out three key metrics in the streaming space. One being how many users are interested in a channel (i.e., are they well known or draw viewers in?). A second, perhaps unsurprisingly, is engagement – but not just per viewing session but rather over time (i.e., not a user that sits down once never to return).

Engagement is where the ad experience on FASTs can also come into play, and one where he said Xumo particularly excels.

“That’s where I think the magic happens, sort of getting the ad strategy right so you’re not overwhelming the consumer on their first time around with the ads,” he said, adding that it’s about creating a strategy that’s set up for a lifetime relationship.

Tied to the ad experience is what Petrie-Norris called third leg of the matrix: yield per hour.

“You need as many users as possible watching for as long as they can, but generating as much yield per hour, not just in the moment but the lifetime,” he noted, emphasizing it’s all about the balance.

For readers that might not be aware and are interested in the nitty gritty on yield and why it’s important, Petrie-Norris explained and cited three key factors that affect it.

Essentially yield per hour is the metric Xumo uses to measure how much commercial value a channel derives per hour (this could be expressed simply as a company saying we’re going to get x or y cents per hour from a channel per hour) but there are multiple elements that play into it.

Three factors:

  1. How many ads are in an hour of programming:  i.e., putting one ad every 8 minutes, vs 10 minutes vs 15 will affect how much yield a channel will get
  2. Fill rates: As Petrie-Norris explained, if a FAST is trying to do six ad requests per hour but is only filling four of them, that will be a diminished 33% less yield per hour.
  3. CPM rates: If services are selling CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) at $5 vs $50 on impressions, it clearly makes a difference on yield per hour.  

It’s a very important metric to Xumo, Petrie-Norris said, as it’s one easy way for customers to judge how a vendor is doing for a platform. And it’s getting those intricate various components right that makes the difference.

“You can have very high ads per hour, but very low CPMs. Is that better than making fewer ad breaks but selling the ads for more?,” he explained. “Optimizing this is really what Xumo is well known for.”

To hear more from Petrie-Norris and other leaders in the streaming industry, register today to join the StreamTV Show June 12-14  in person or via livestream.