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Comcast’s Roberts: ‘We’re Looking at Smart TVs on a Global Basis’ for X1

Comcast's X1 on display.
Comcast's X1 on display. (Image credit: Xfinity Flex)

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts confirmed reports that his company is looking to expand its X1 video operating system into smart TVs. 

“We're early days, but we're looking at smart TVs on a global basis,” Roberts said Tuesday, speaking during Goldman Sachs’ virtualized Communacopia Conference. “And we're wondering, can we bring our same tech stack or certain capabilities in aggregation to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs? We’ve done that with X1 when we syndicated it to Canada and to other operators in the United States. And we see a similar road map possibly for that.”

Also read: Comcast Looking to License X1 to Smart TV Makers (Report)

Comcast developed X1 a decade ago and introduced the platform back in 2012. In the more formative years of X1, the cable giant billed it as a “churn buster,” a means of countering the impulse to cord cut with a powerfully intuitive video platform equipped with advanced voice control features. 

But Comcast now sees X1 as an aggregation tool, enabling assets like new streaming service Peacock to proliferate beyond the cable company’s Xfinity-branded pay TV services. Comcast is also experimenting with new forms of TV advertising using X1, such as voice-interactive ads that leverage X1's Voice Remote.

“Let's talk about aggregation. That gets to the heart of what we do,” Roberts said. “I go back to when my dad started Comcast back in the 1960s, they were aggregating broadcast television signals in rural America. Today, we're aggregating whatever a consumer wants. It's traditional television, a sea of apps, streaming and it started for us and for Sky with having the best aggregation platform. And that's called X1 here in the U.S. and Sky Q.”

Peacock is driving heavy usage within the X1 ecosystem, Roberts said. On native X1 set-tops, it’s the third most used streaming app behind Netflix and YouTube. And on Xfinity Flex—the thin-client version of X1 handed out free to Comcast’s broadband-only customers—it’s second only to Netflix in usage. 

Also read: Peacock Signups Jump to 15M, Roberts Says

So Comcast wants to expand the profile of X1. 

It’s not an entirely new impulse, of course. 

Comcast already has “white label” deals to license X1 hardware and software to other cable companies. Notably, Cox Communications calls its iteration of X1 “Contour.” In Canada, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Videotron each license the platform, as well.