Comcast and Charter team up to overthrow Roku, Amazon’s streaming hardware


As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, partner with another overpowered cable giant to give you a better chance. This morning, Comcast and Charter announced a new joint venture which will see the two companies partner to develop “a next-generation streaming platform across a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs”. This new platform and the devices that run it will compete against Amazon, Roku, Google, Apple, and other established streaming hardware players.

The new venture is evenly split between the two companies and focuses exclusively on streaming; it “does not involve the broadband or cable video businesses of Comcast or Charter, which will remain independent.”

Comcast says its Flex streaming platform will serve as the foundation for what’s to come. It also contributes “to the retail trade for XClass TVs and will bring Xumo, a streaming service acquired in 2020.” Comcast introduced its XClass TVs last year as an alternative to the many popular budget TVs that come preloaded with Roku, Amazon or Google software. For its part, Charter – best known to many for its Spectrum brand – earns $900 million over several years.

Unsurprisingly, Peacock will be heavily featured on the upcoming software and product list. But customers will also have access to the huge selection of apps currently available on Flex, so all the heavy hitters like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, Spotify and more are covered.

Here’s how new partners see their first strategy unfolding:

XClass TVs will be available through national retail partners and potentially directly from Comcast and Charter to provide more choice for customers. Xumo will continue to operate as a free global streaming service available through joint venture products and third-party devices. Charter will offer the 4K streaming TV devices and voice remotes starting in 2023. Comcast will continue to offer the Flex streaming platform as a streaming device and service to its customers.

A unified effort from the #1 and second largest cable company in the US means you’re likely to see a huge retail and advertising presence for all the products coming out of this joint venture. And, with the potential for big profits, there’s good reason for them to be aggressive.

More than one in three smart TVs sold in the US and Canada last year was a Roku TV model. Amazon and Google are also seeing success with their TV hardware partnerships. If Comcast and Charter can contribute even a little, the new joint venture will get off to a good start. But that’s no small challenge: Roku and Google TV offer better picture quality than ever. This is a proven amount known to consumers.

Comcast and Charter note that “closing of the joint venture is subject to customary closing conditions.”

Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The edgemother Society.


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