Comcast's anticipated official entry into the smart TV business will start in Europe, where the conglomerate on Thursday formally introduced a new smart TV initiative for its Sky satellite TV operator called Sky Glass.
Earlier speculation revolved around Comcast using its X1/Flex operating system to power a new line of smart TVs sold globally at retail, perhaps in partnership with Walmart, beyond the boundaries of cable service footprint.
But Sky Glass smart TVs will be offered, at least initially, only to Sky subscribers as customer premises equipment, available through equipment lease payments starting at £13 ($17.71 USD), and replacing proprietary set-tops with advanced-feature-laden TVs that support all the major local streaming apps.
As detailed in this Comcast announcement, the sets will come in 43-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch vertical sizes, and in color choices including "Ocean blue, Ceramic white, Racing green, Dusky pink, or Anthracite black," with matching voice-controlled remotes included.
Comcast, which purchased Sky in 2018 for $39 billion, didn't reveal its OEM smart TV partner for Sky Glass, but the 4K-capable sets are based on state-of-the-art Quantum Dot LED technology and also support HLG, HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Sky Glass supports apps for not only Sky pay TV services, but also BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Disney Plus, ITV Hub, All4, Spotify, Peloton and PlayWorks, among others.
For an additional £10 a month per unit, Sky users can add the Sky Stream Puck player to configure additional rooms in their domicile.
The Sky Glass strategy is congruent with the playbook Comcast established for its X1 video platform in the U.S. five years ago, when it first integrated Netflix support into the platform and declared itself "the aggregator of aggregators."
Speaking at a Thursday Sky Glass presentation, Sky CEO Dana Strong noted that Sky already had integration deals with most, if not all, of the OTT companies whose apps are supported by Sky Glass.
"We already have IP distribution deals with most every provider so it was an amendment to deals as opposed to a complete re-cast," she said.
Sky Glass is also keeping up Comcast's recent tradition of licensing out its technology, with Australia's Foxtel Group set to deploy a white-label version of the smart TV play in 2022.
Now, the question is, what will Comcast's inevitable smart TV play in the U.S. look like?
Three weeks ago, tech news site Protocol found a Comcast product page, seemingly left open to the public inadvertently and since taken down, that laid out plans for XClass, a new line of Comcast-branded smart TVs, manufactured by Hisense, and powered by the same X1/Flex OS software that powers Comcast set-tops.
Under terms described by the Comcast XClass site, 43- and 50-inch XClass-branded 4K sets would support all the major U.S. streaming apps, as X1 already does, but purchasers would also get a year's free of Comcast/NBCUniversal's $4.99 Peacock Premium SVOD service.
Since Comcast's Xfinity video and broadband already get Peacock Premium at no additional charge, it could be interpreted that Comcast intends to sell XClass smart TVs out of footprint to non-Comcast subscribers.
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. His reliable mid-range jump shot, deft ambidextrous post-up game and tough interior defense have been criminally overlooked.
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