As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, team up with another overly powerful cable giant to give yourself a better shot. This morning, Comcast and Charter announced a new joint venture that will see the two companies team up to develop “a next-generation streaming platform on various branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs”. This new platform and the devices it runs on will compete against Amazon, Roku, Google, Apple, and other established streaming hardware players.
The new venture is split evenly between the two companies and is focused solely on streaming; it “does not include Comcast or Charter’s broadband or cable video companies, which remain independent.”
Comcast says its Flex streaming platform will serve as the foundation for what’s to come. It also contributes to “retail for” XClass TVs and will contribute to Xumo, a streaming service it 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. Charter for its part — better known to many for its Spectrum brand — kicks in $900 million over the course of several years.
Unsurprisingly, Peacock will play a big part in the upcoming software and a range of products. But customers can also access the wide app selection currently available on Flex, so all the heavy hitters like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, Spotify and others are covered.
Here’s how the new partners see their early strategy playing out:
The XClass TVs will be available through national retail partners and possibly directly from Comcast and Charter to provide greater customer choice. Xumo will continue to operate as a free global streaming service available through the joint venture’s products and third-party devices. Charter will offer the 4K streaming TV devices and voice remotes from 2023. Comcast will continue to offer the Flex streaming platform as a streaming device and service to its customers.
A joint effort by the No. 1 and second largest cable operators in the United States means you’re likely to see a huge retail and advertising presence for all of the products coming out of this joint venture. And with the potential for big wins, there is plenty of 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 capitalize on that even a little, the new joint venture will be off to a good start. But it’s no small challenge: Roku and Google TVs offer better picture quality than ever before. It is a proven, known amount that consumers are familiar with.
Comcast and Charter note that “closure of the joint venture is subject to customary closing conditions.”
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The edgethe parent company.