As the official kickoff to the college football season, the Labor Day holiday weekend is typically an active period for smart-TV shopping, as consumers ponder their obsolete display roster and look to upgrade before the onslaught of big games.
Search under the keyword "smart TV" on Walmart.com on this post-holiday Wednesday, and you can still find a flurry of discounted smart TVs priced under $300. But something caught our eye as we perused the fair of Samsung, TCL, Vizio, Hisense and Onn.-branded sets listed on the big-box retailer's website.
We had to scroll down pretty far — through eight vertical lines of thumbnails — to find a 50-inch Hisense 4K/UHD smart TV powered by Comcast’s XClass TV OS, discounted by $100 to just $248.
In case you might have forgotten, Comcast officially kicked off its XClass TV initiative nearly 11 months ago, introducing 50-inch and 43-inch smart TVs made by Hisense and sold exclusively at Walmart, and powered by a TVOS based on source code originally developed for the Xfinity X1 and Flex pay TV platforms.
Comcast, which lost over half a million pay TV customers in Q2 and saw its customer base dwindle to 17.144 million subscribers, is looking to compete with Google, Roku and Amazon for market share in the smart TV OS market, and extend its control of the connected living room beyond the pay TV era.
How's that effort going? Tough to say.
“I have heard nothing, nor have I seen an ad for one either,” TVREV analyst Alan Wolk said in a Wednesday afternoon email exchange focused on XClass TV. “I have to remind myself that they actually rolled it out a while back and that it is currently in stores.”
A Comcast rep has yet to respond to our Tuesday-afternoon request for an update on the XClass TV initiative.
Certainly, the global smart TV OS market isn't becoming less competitive. Just in the past few weeks, for example, Xperi Corp. announced a deal to provide TiVo-branded TVOS to Istanbul-based Vestel, Europe's largest smart TV supplier. And Roku-powered TCL smart TVs entered the German market.
And Comcast, which partnered its TVOS efforts with Charter Communications earlier this year, doesn't appear to have given up on its quest to make X1/Flex a gateway app. Earlier this summer, Protocol reported that Comcast has had M&A discussions with Vizio and other smart TV makers.
Notably, the 986 Walmart customer reviews for the 50-inch XClass TV-powered Hisense set were significantly fewer than most of the other smart TVs listed on Walmart.com, some of which had more than 8,000 customer reviews. This perhaps offers some indication of relative sales.
For the most part, reviews for the XClass TVs are on par with the rest of those sold on Walmart.com, averaging about four and a half stars out of five, and with most reviews focused on aspects of the Hisense device, not its operating software.
Conspicuously, the first review surfacing for the 50-Inch XClass — from a happy customer offering up a five-star rating — does mention the TVOS: “I could care less about the software on the TV because I use an Amazon Fire Stick,” the reviewer wrote. ■
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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. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!