Charter, Comcast Adopt ‘Xumo’ Streaming Brand Name for New Joint Venture

Charter and Comcast’s joint streaming venture has a name: Xumo.

The cable pay-TV operators Nov. 2 announced that their streaming platform joint venture will now operate and conduct business as Xumo, evolving the brand from a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service to an entertainment ecosystem inclusive of all streaming devices and content holders.

Charter and Comcast also announced that Flex, the 4K streaming device Comcast licensed to the joint venture, will become Xumo Stream Box, and XClass TV will become Xumo TV. Both devices will remain powered by Comcast’s global technology platform and feature an entertainment experience designed to make it easy for consumers to find and enjoy their favorite streaming content through a world-class user interface and voice search. The first Xumo branded devices will launch in 2023, distributed by Comcast, Charter and Walmart, with additional distributors to be announced in the future.

“The new Xumo will bring industry leading streaming and aggregation technology nationwide through its expanding content, product line up, and retailer relationships,” Marcien Jenckes, president of Xumo, said in a statement.

Xumo’s current FAST service, which consists of linear channels and on-demand options, will be rebranded Xumo Play and continue to be available as an app on other streaming platforms.

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Charter and Comcast Announce Joint Venture to Develop New Streaming Platform

Charter Communications and Comcast April 27 announced that the two companies have formed a 50/50 joint venture to develop and offer a next-generation streaming platform on a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs. The joint venture will offer app developers, streamers, retailers, operators, and hardware manufacturers the opportunity to reach customers in major markets across the country with the platform.

Comcast will license Flex, its aggregated streaming platform and hardware to the joint venture, contribute the retail business for XClass TVs and also will contribute Xumo, the ad-supported streaming service it acquired in 2020.  Charter will make an initial contribution of $900 million, funded over multiple years.

The XClass TVs will be available through national retail partners and potentially direct from Comcast and Charter to provide more 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 beginning in 2023. Comcast will continue to offer the Flex streaming platform as a streaming device and service to its customers.

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“These products are all designed to make search and discovery across live, on-demand and streaming video seamless and incredibly simple for consumers,” Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said in a statement.  “This partnership uniquely brings together more than a decade of technical innovation, national scale and new opportunities to monetize our combined investment.”

“As the video landscape continues to evolve, this venture will increase retail consumer options, compete at scale with established national platforms, and join our existing lineup of options for the Spectrum TV App available on most customer-owned streaming devices,” added Tom Rutledge, Charter CEO.

The joint venture’s products claim to give consumers a state-of-the-art streaming experience to access their favorite apps, based on Comcast’s Flex product, which currently delivers all the most-watched streaming apps in the marketplace. The products will feature hundreds of free content choices through Xumo, currently delivering more than 200 unique streaming channels. Peacock also will be featured on the joint venture’s streaming platform, alongside other popular apps.

The closing of the joint venture is subject to customary closing conditions. This joint venture does not involve the broadband or cable video businesses of either Comcast or Charter, which will remain independent.

WarnerMedia and Charter Announce Distribution Agreement for HBO Max

WarnerMedia and Charter Communications have entered into a new multiyear distribution agreement that will make HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming platform, available to Charter customers when it launches in May.

Through the pact, all of Charter’s existing HBO subscribers, including subscribers in its Spectrum Silver and Gold video packages, will automatically be given access to HBO Max at no additional charge and with no action required other than signing into the HBO Max app. All remaining and new customers will be able to purchase HBO Max directly from Charter.

“Charter has been a longtime distributor of our networks and on-demand content, and a valued partner to our company,” said Rich Warren, president of WarnerMedia Distribution, in a statement. “We look forward to working together to bring HBO Max to Spectrum subscribers when the product launches next month.”

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“We are eager to provide Spectrum customers with the highly-anticipated HBO Max offering when it makes its debut next month,” Tom Montemagno, Charter’s EVP of programming acquisition, said in a statement. “This new premium streaming experience will be a welcome addition to Spectrum subscribers; we will offer HBO Max on a multitude of platforms for purchase by our video, broadband and mobile customers alike.”

Report: Pay-TV Providers Lost 1.3 Million Subs in Q1

It was a bad quarter for the pay-TV business.

New data from Leichtman Research Group found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing about 95% of the market — lost more than 1.3 million video subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31) — up 426% from a net loss of 305,000 subs in the previous-year period.

Pay-TV providers now account for about 87.8 million subscribers — with the top six cable companies having 46.7 million video subscribers, satellite TV services (28.3 million subs), telephone companies (8.9 million), and the top publicly reporting online TV with 3.9 million subs.

Satellite TV services such as Dish Network and DirecTV drove pay-TV losses with about 810,000 subs dropping service compared to a loss of about 375,000 subs in the previous-year period.

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Cable operators lost about 335,000 video subs — compared to a loss of about 285,000 subs last year. Telephone providers lost 105,000 video subs, up from a loss of 50,000 subs last year.  Online TV services lost 75,000 subs, compared to a gain of 405,000 subs last year.

Notably, AT&T had a loss of about 625,000 subs across its three pay-TV services (DirecTV, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV Now) compared to a gain of 125,000 subscribers in 2018.

“The leading pay-TV provider in the U.S., AT&T, accounted for 47% of the net losses in the quarter,” analyst Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. “[The quarter] was the third consecutive [period] of record pay-TV net losses.  This accelerated downturn in the pay-TV market coincided with the decisions by AT&T and other providers to increasingly focus on long-term profitability when acquiring and retaining subscribers.”

 

Pay-TV Providers Subscribers at end of 1Q 2019 Net Adds in 1Q 2019
Cable Companies
Comcast 21,866,000 (120,000)
Charter 16,461,000 (145,000)
Cox 3,980,000 (35,000)
Altice 3,297,300 (10,200)
Mediacom 764,000 (12,000)
Cable ONE 320,611 (11,500)
Total Top Cable 46,688,911 (333,700)
Satellite Services (DBS)
DirecTV 18,679,000 (543,000)
Dish Network 9,639,000 (266,000)
Total DBS 28,318,000 (809,000)
Phone Companies
Verizon FiOS 4,398,000 (53,000)
AT&T U-verse 3,704,000 0
Frontier 784,000 (54,000)
Total Top Phone 8,886,000 (107,000)
Online TV
Sling TV 2,424,000 7,000
DirecTV Now 1,508,000 (83,000)
Total Top Online TV 3,932,000 (76,000)
Total Top Providers 87,824,911 (1,325,700)

 

 

Charter’s Spectrum TV App on Apple TV

Charter Communications has launched the Spectrum TV App on Apple TV.

Nearly 50 million homes across Charter’s footprint now have access to live channels and tens of thousands of programs on the Spectrum TV App for Apple TV, according to Charter.

Additionally, starting next week and expanding throughout 2019, new and existing Spectrum TV and Internet customers can get an Apple TV 4K as part of their monthly subscription for $7.50/month plus tax for 24 months, according to Charter.

Charter is the first U.S. based cable operator to offer customers the new zero sign-on experience from Apple, which further simplifies signing in to video apps on Apple TV, according to Charter. When first set up in a Spectrum household, Apple TV 4K or Apple TV (4th generation) will detect the Spectrum customer’s broadband network and automatically sign them in to the Spectrum TV App and all the supported apps they receive through their service — with no need to enter a username and password, according to Charter.

The new Spectrum TV App is also integrated with the Apple TV app and Siri.

“We are bringing our customers the most robust Spectrum TV App experience available today through Apple TV,” said Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s EVP, products and strategy, in a statement. “With features like zero sign-on and Apple TV app integration, the Spectrum TV App on Apple TV delivers the best and most seamless viewing experience, giving customers even greater choice and flexibility to enjoy Spectrum TV.”

“With Spectrum TV on Apple TV 4K, customers can now enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience across their iPhone, iPad and Apple TV,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple VP of product marketing, in a statement. “We want to help customers get right to watching their favorite channels, shows, movies and sports, and with innovative features like zero sign-on, the Apple TV app and Siri, they are able to jump right in.”

FCC: Nearly Half of 22 Million Public Comments on Net Neutrality Fake

During the 2017 run-up to the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 during the Obama Administration, the agency solicited public comments on the proposed decision not to treat the Internet as a public utility.

The FCC on Dec. 14, 2017 voted 3-2 along party lines to nullify the Open Internet Order affirmed under previous chairman Tom Wheeler. In doing so, Internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter were no longer prohibited from charging online streaming services such as Netflix market rates for broadband access, among other issues.

In new FCC disclosures following Freedom of Information Act requests by The New York Timesand other media groups, it was revealed that nearly 11 million of the 22 million comments received online regarding net neutrality were fraudulent, including 500,000 comments received from Russian sources.

The revelation underscores the widespread influx and influence social media can have on more than national elections. Indeed, about 8 million fake comments originated from domain sites associated with FakeMailGenerator.com. Another 2 million comments used stolen identities.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement to Congress, claimed that much of the “overheated rhetoric” against his proposed net neutrality rollback originated from fraudulent sources. In fact, most of the authentic comments reportedly consisted of form-letter responses.

Regardless, the New York State Attorney General’s Office in October opened an investigation to the fake comments, including subpoenaing public action groups on both sides of the issue.

 

Netflix Finally Available on Sky

Netflix, beginning Sept. 19, is now available as a direct link to U.K. pay-TV service Sky – about six months after first announcing a partnership with the high-profile satellite TV operator.

The SVOD behemoth is available to Sky’s most-expensive Q bundle for an extra £10 monthly as part of Sky’s “Ultimate On Demand” add-on feature. Existing Netflix subscribers can link their account to Sky Q or log onto the Netflix app separately.

But direct access, including Netflix original programing on display alongside traditional pay-TV selections is precisely why multichannel video program distributors such as Comcast, Virgin Media (since 2013), Altice USA, Charter Spectrum, Cox, Liberty Global and T-Mobile, among others, have embraced Netflix.

“We are partnering with a growing number of pay-TV providers across the world to the benefit of our mutual customers,” Netflix said in its Q4 shareholder letter. “These partnerships make it easier for consumers to sign up, enjoy, and pay for Netflix, while our service allows our partners to deepen their relationships with these subscribers.”

Amber Pine, commercial director at Sky, says the satellite TV operator with about 9 million U.K. subscribers has a lot of mutual customers.

“The depth of this integration provides them with a unique experience where they can have the best of both worlds,” Pine said in a statement.

Indeed, British regulator Ofcom recently reported that over-the-top video across the pond has now topped pay-TV in the number of subscribers: 15.4 million to 15.1 million.

“On a simplistic level, Sky and Netflix look like direct competitors,” Andrew McIntosh, the head of TV analysis at Enders Analysis, told Wired. “But they act on different levels, which Sky is well aware of. Sky doesn’t offer what Netflix offers. Now it is providing what it can’t offer, but still through the Sky package. And it makes Sky look good, because it is putting the customer first. It’s a very clever move.”

And interesting, considering both Comcast, Fox (and Disney) have competing acquisition bids on the table for Sky.