Xumo TV: Everything You Need to Know About the Comcast and Charter Streaming OS Joint Venture

Comcast-Charter JV Xumo TV
(Image credit: Comcast)

With the traditional pay-TV industry in a state of secular decline, in April 2022 America’s two biggest cable operators, Comcast and Charter Communications, launched a joint venture to build an operating system and an entire ecosystem of apps designed to preserve the incumbents’ gateway into the living room and give them a platform to expand into out-of-footprint markets across the U.S. and internationally. 

Xumo TV is rooted in Comcast’s flagship X1 operating system and leverages the Xumo branding established by the free ad-supported streaming services Comcast acquired in 2020 for $100 million. That was at a time when FASTs were still considered a bit of a backwater where distributors could tap some incremental revenue on cheap library content and re-runs that appealed to the nostalgia of a relatively small niche market of viewers. 

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With the new branding, the original Xumo FAST platform is being billed as Xumo Play. Comcast’s Flex 4K set-top boxes, designed for broadband-only customers, are being branded as the Xumo Stream Box. And the company’s line of XClass TV smart TVs, manufactured by Hisense, are being branded as Xumo TV. The Comcast-Charter JV expects connected TV devices with the new Xumo branding to hit the market in late 2023.  

With the technological foundations already laid by Comcast, Charter is committing $900 million to the Xumo TV JV to help expand the platform to handle a new generation of devices and provide additional functions. 

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Perpetually rising cable TV bills, driven largely by ever increasing sports rights contracts, coupled with declining quality on linear TV as networks shift their high-profile content to their own walled-garden streaming platforms have driven cost-conscious consumers to slash their cable TV bills in favor of cheaper streaming alternatives. But they still need the consistent broadband throughput that cable offers in order to access any of the alternative entertainment services. 

Xumo TV is designed to protect cable’s core broadband product and maintain its prominent position on the home screen, while gathering all of the rich data that targeted advertisers so crave these days. 

Comcast and Charter have a history of working together. In 2017, the two companies partnered to take on the wireless industry with Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile. By the end of 2021, they had collectively grown to 7.6 million wireless subscribers.  

The Evolution of Xumo TV: A Timeline

Comcast first rolled its X1 cloud-enabled video platform for Xfinity TV pay TV customers in 2012. The platform quickly became popular among subscribers for its ease of use, incorporating apps from all of the major OTT services at the time. 

In 2014, the third largest cable operator in the U.S., Cox, became the first to license a white-label version of the video operating system, which it branded as Contour. 

In 2015, Canadian cable company Shaw Communications wrote down $55 million it had already invested in developing its own platform and licensed the white-label X1 platform, branded as BlueSky TV. 

Comcast X1

(Image credit: Comcast)

In 2016, Canadian operator Rogers Communications came on board, branding its white-label iteration of X1 as Ignite TV. At the time, Rogers wrote off almost $500 million it had already invested in developing its own platform. 

In 2017, Montreal-based Videotron licensed the X1 platform for its Helix branded platform.

Over the years, Comcast and its white label X1 partners touted the platform as a major churn buster, reporting huge growth in video-on-demand and DVR usage.

In 2019 Comcast released a thin-client offshoot called Xfinity Flex for its growing ranks of customers who only subscribe to broadband. The $5-a-month streaming platform offers access to popular SVOD platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video along with AVOD services like Tubi and, of course, Xumo, plus VOD content for rent through Comcast’s transactional store. 

At that point, it became evident that Comcast had set it sights much higher — that the ecosystem it was building was evolving into a full-blown TVOS destined to compete with the likes of Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.

But to do that, it would have to be available far beyond the relatively limited footprint of Comcast and its white-label partners. 

Last year, Comcast announced a partnership with Hisense to manufacture XClass TVs powered by its X1 operating system along with an exclusive deal to sell the new sets at Walmart. XClass TVs give users access to all the features of Xfinity Flex, whether they subscribe to Comcast or not. 

Meanwhile in Europe, the cable company’s pay TV subsidiary, Sky, started rolling out its Sky Glass TV sets and Sky Stream set-top boxes powered by a modified version of the X1 platform late last year. Sky recently got a major boost from a content joint venture with Paramount Global called SkyShowtime.  

The Competitive Field

The Comcast-Charter Xumo TV joint venture is entering a crowded field, with Roku and Amazon Fire TV firmly entrenched in the U.S., and plenty of competition from TV set makers like Samsung, LG, Vizio, not to mention Android TV and its new incarnation as Google TV.  

Xperi’s TiVo is also trying to get a foothold in the living room, mainly focused on the European market at the moment.

However, Xumo TV has a few things going for it. First and foremost, with X1’s vast footprint already covering Comcast, Charter, Cox along with its Canadian white-label footprint and the European Sky platform, Xumo TV is far from a pie-eyed startup. 

In fact, it’s already a seasoned platform with a massive user base and the joint venture is just amping it up to the next level. 

Freelancer Scott Lehane has been covering the film and TV industry for almost 30 years from his base in southern Ontario, near Toronto. Along with several Future plc-owned publications, he has written extensively for Below the Line, CinemaEditor, Animation World, Film & Video and DTV Business in the U.S., as well as The IBC Daily, Showreel and British Cinematographer in the U.K. and Encore and Broadcast Engineering News in Australia, to name few. He currently edits Future’s Next TV, B+C and Multichannel News daily SmartBriefs. He spends his free time in the metaverse, waiting for everyone else to show up.