Comcast to Launch Branded ‘XClass TV’ Models Made by China’s Hisense

Comcast is getting into the television business. The media giant has quietly began laying the groundwork for the rollout of a line of broadband branded high-definition televisions manufactured by China’s Hisense.

Dubbed “XClass TV,” the initial units come in 43-inch and 50-inch screen sizes powered by the cable giant’s X1 operating system with ultra high-definition (UHD) picture resolution — relatively small in today’s mega-screen market — according to the device’s landing page.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“XClass TV smart TV that brings all your favorite apps, live channels, and On Demand movies and shows together in one place. XClass TV works gives you thousands of free movies, shows, music and more,” reads the the page.

While there has been no official announcement, Comcast is following in the footsteps of Roku, which was the first U.S. streaming media company to partner with Chinese manufacturers launching branded televisions. Amazon just announced the launch of its own line of branded self-manufactured TVs.

Previous media reports say Comcast would market the XClass TVs through Walmart. Regardless, the move is noteworthy considering the TVs would be marketed to consumers outside Comcast’s pay-TV.

“We’re looking at smart TVs on a global basis, and we’re wondering: Can we bring our tech stack, or certain capabilities in aggregation, to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs?,” Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts told an investor group in 2020.

Indeed, in addition to a free year subscription to Peacock, the televisions come equipped with myriad third-party apps (Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Showtime and Paramount+) preloaded, plus free movies through NBCUniversal-owned Vudu, and ad-free FAST platforms Xumo, Pluto TV and Tubi.

The TVs will also have access to music, playlists, and podcasts from Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, in addition to live broadcasts from iHeart Radio.

The XClass TV will include access to Premier League soccer from the U.K. on Peacock and Spain’s La Liga, and the PGA Tour on Xumo. Plus, access to highlight reels and must-watch moments on YouTube.

Amazon Building Its Own Smart Televisions

As one of the world’s largest companies, Amazon is taking the unprecedented step of building its own brand of Internet-connected smart televisions instead of licensing units with third-party original equipment manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and related Chinese makers.

The first-ever Amazon-built smart TVs include the Amazon Fire TV Omni Series and 4-Series smart TVs, and the all-new Fire TV Stick 4K Max.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Fire TV Omni Series will be available in 43-inch ($409.99), 50-inch ($509.99), and 55-inch ($559.99). The Fire TV Omni Series with Dolby Vision will be available in 65-inch ($829.99), and 75-inch ($1,099.99). The Fire TV 4-Series will be available in 43-inch ($369.99), 50-inch ($469.99), and 55-inch ($519.99). All TVs will be available next month in the United States, exclusively at Amazon and Best Buy. Starting Sept. 9, shoppers can save $110 on the 50-inch Fire TV Omni and 4-Series models for a limited time during the introductory period.

Fire TV Stick 4K Max will be available in the United States for $54.99.

“We’ve reimagined what a TV can do by building it with two of our most popular experiences at the core — the intelligent always-available power of far-field Alexa, and Fire TV’s content-forward approach to entertainment,” Daniel Rausch, VP of Amazon entertainment devices and services, said in a statement. “Our new Fire TV Omni Series smart TVs, with hands-free access to Alexa, make controlling your TV faster, simpler, and more natural.”

Electric Entertainment Officially Launches OTT Service ElectricNow With Availability on Vizio Smart TVs

Electric Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production, distribution and post-production company, has announced the hard launch of its OTT app and channel ElectricNow, concurrently with the app’s availability on all Vizio SmartCast televisions.

SmartCast  users have around-the-clock access to Electric Entertainment’s produced content such as TV series “Leverage,” “The Librarians” and “The Outpost,” as well as acquired programming such as the feature films Blood on the Crown, starring Harvey Keitel and Malcolm McDowell, and Heavy, starring Sophie Turner and Daniel Zovatto.

“We soft-launched ElectricNow in spring of 2020,” said Dean Devlin, CEO of Electric Entertainment, in a statement. “The consumer feedback and corresponding viewership has been well beyond our expectations.  We originally set out to create a hub where we could aggregate all of our various fan bases from ‘Leverage,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘The Outpost,’ ‘Almost Paradise’ and all of our podcast subscribers into a single space. Now with the app being available to this incredibly large consumer base via Vizio SmartCast, we are reaching a much broader more mainstream audience, picking up new fans along the way.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“With the addition of ElectricNow to SmartCast, we are continuing Vizio’s mission to provide our audiences with endless entertainment,” Chris Tanquary, director of business development and partnerships for Vizio, said in a statement. “ElectricNow’s hard launch is a great step in that effort, and gives SmartCast users access to their exciting original and acquired content.”

Electric Entertainment recently announced marathons on ElectricNow for its original programs “Leverage” and “The Outpost,” timed to coincide with the streaming and/or broadcasting of these program’s new episodes and seasons.

Devlin has seen ElectricNow as not only a one-stop-shop destination for fans of Electric’s programming, but also as a marketing tool to lead viewers to their streaming and broadcast partners, according to a company press release.

“Our fans and broadcast/streaming partners have been equally important to us,” he said in a statement. “Bringing them together has been a major initiative for us.”

Samsung TV Plus Adds Impact Wrestling

Professional wrestling organization Impact Wrestling, a subsidiary of Anthem Sports & Entertainment, has inked an agreement with Samsung TV Plus, giving viewers access to its library of wrestling content through both a dedicated Impact Wrestling Channel and on VOD.

Samsung TV Plus is a free ad-supported streaming (FAST) service, offering viewers instant access to more than 160 channels. Samsung TV Plus comes pre-installed on 2016-21 Samsung Smart TVs and is available on select Samsung Galaxy devices. Impact’s dedicated channel is on channel 1,164 on Samsung TV Plus.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“This new partnership presents an invaluable opportunity for us to bring Impact Wrestling’s exclusive premium content to even more viewers across the country,” Jaime Pollack, Anthem’s chief revenue officer for its sports media group, said in a statement. “We are excited to share our deep, generation-spanning library with Samsung TV Plus’ audience — giving wrestling fans both old and new a chance to enjoy all of the larger-than-life personas, legendary matches, and gripping story-telling that Impact Wrestling is known for.”

Impact Wrestling includes almost two decades of new and classic original content, with classic stars, including Ric Flair, Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash and AJ Styles, as well as a current roster of athletes, including Rich Swann, The Good Brothers, former NFL player Moose, Deonna Purrazzo, Sami Callihan, Eddie Edwards, Jordynne Grace, Eric Young and Chris Bey.

Impact programming is televised globally in 120 countries including AXS TV in the United States.

Movies Anywhere Launches on Samsung Smart TVs, Bows ‘Deal of the Day’ Feature

The Movies Anywhere personal digital library service app is now available on Samsung smart TVs, and the service has also launched a “Deal of the Day” feature.

By expanding to Samsung for its 2017-21 smart TVs, the Movies Anywhere app can now be found on a majority of big-screen devices in the United States, according to the service.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Consumers can download the free Movies Anywhere app from the Samsung smart TV app store.

Movies Anywhere brings together more than 8,000 movies from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Twentieth Century Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The service syncs purchased movie libraries from multiple digital retailers across devices and platforms.

With the addition of the Samsung platform, the Movies Anywhere app is now available on the largest network of smart TVs in the United States, according to the service.

Movies Anywhere has also launched a “Deal of the Day” widget. After automatically crawling all current eligible deals, the widget curates and displays personalized deal recommendations based on users’ watch history and movies in their digital locker. “Deal of the Day” is available now for iOS 14 users who have installed Movies Anywhere’s 1.42.0 build. After installing this update and opening the Movies Anywhere app, the “Deal of the Day” widget will appear in the widget gallery and can be added directly to the Movies Anywhere app’s home screen.

 

Crackle Plus Launching AVOD App on Smart TVs

Crackle Plus, an advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service, Feb. 10 announced an agreement to launch its app on Smart TVs with the VIDAA smart operation system, including Hisense Smart TVs.

At launch, Crackle content on VIDAA will be available to their customers in the U.S. using their proprietary operating system. VIDAA customers will gain access to Crackle’s library of studio film titles and classic TV series as well as a growing list of original and exclusive programming, including “Breaking Beauty,” “Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story,” “Robert the Bruce,” “Spides,” “Corporate Animals,” “Blue Iguana,” “Anything is Possible: The Serge Ibaka Story,” “Road to Race Day,” “On Point,” “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters,” “The Clearing,” “Insomnia,” “Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” and “Going From Broke,” recently picked up for a second season.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

VIDAA’s system gives users access to dozens of third-party streaming apps delivering entertainment as either video-on-demand or linear feeds. The VIDAA Smart TV platform was launched by Hisense in 2014,  amassing more than 20 million global installs since that time.

“Crackle is excited to partner with VIDAA and to offer free access to our growing library of originals and exclusives, as well as our expanding library of studio films, docu-series, sports content, and classic TV shows,” Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, said in a statement.

Crackle linear and VOD networks are available in the U.S. and can be accessed on 29 devices and services including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com. Crackle is also available in approximately 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain. 

LG Takes Stake in TV Data and Measurement Firm

LG Electronics, through U.S. subsidiary Zenith Electronics, has taken a controlling stake of more than 50% in TV data and measurement firm Alphonso Inc.

The move is designed “to bring together the two TV industry leaders’ technologies and innovations in LG’s smart TV lineup,” the companies announced. 

“LG has made understanding customer tastes and consumer trends one of its highest priorities as part of its digital transformation strategy to deliver better customized services,” according to a press release.

LG plans to utilize Alphonso software and services — including Alphonso’s data analytics, media planning and activation, and Video AI capabilities — with its home entertainment products.

Alphonso’s combined offerings will enrich consumer services including content recommendations and LG’s own streaming service, LG Channels, to create a robust owned and operated first-screen, cross-device advertising platform with integrated analytics for the smart TV marketplace generally and for LG smart TVs specifically, according to the companies. 

Alphonso will continue to operate as an independent business under its current brand and leadership based in Silicon Valley.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Our investment in Alphonso is a key component of our digital transformation strategy focusing on AI, big data and cloud to fundamentally change how consumers interact with their devices,” said Park Hyoung-sei, president of the LG Home Entertainment Company, in a statement. “With Alphonso’s TV data analysis capabilities, LG will be able to better fulfill consumers’ needs by providing them even more customized services and content. We are proud to welcome Alphonso to the LG family.” 

Follow us on Instagram

“LG and Alphonso have a shared vision for advancing the smart TV ecosystem through innovative software and services oriented toward modern new consumer experiences on one end, and highly flexible, lucrative advertising, planning, and measurement offerings for brands, agencies, and broadcasters on the other,” Ashish Chordia, founder and CEO of Alphonso, said in a statement.

“Becoming part of LG Electronics gives Alphonso the backing of one of the world’s leaders in home entertainment products, with access to a massive global inventory of connected TV screens,” he added. “We can now maximize our mutual impact on the TV marketplace as we bring our products together and deliver immense value for the ecosystem.”

Music Streaming Video Service Vevo Inks Smart TV Distribution Deal

Vevo Nov. 17 announced a deal with NetRange, provider of Smart TV and OTT video ecosystems, to include the music streaming video platform in nearly a dozen countries powered by the latter’s software.

Vevo is continuing to advance its distribution capabilities at the global level through a series of partnerships in the connected television space. With 26% year-on-year global growth of music video consumption across connected television devices, music video on the TV is enjoying a significant return to the living room, according to Vevo Internal Analytics.

“We are seeing very strong growth across our CTV partnerships, giving us the opportunity to make our content available to music fans across the world,” Rob Christensen, VP of advanced television at Vevo, said in a statement.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

NetRange will join a portfolio of existing Vevo partners, including YouTube, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Roku, PlutoTV, Apple TV, Virgin Media, Sky, Vewd, Xumo and Samsung TV Plus, among others.

“Music through the TV is enjoying an accelerating second wave of popularity driven by apps on connected Smart TVs,” said Tim Schröeder, CEO of NetRange. He said the deal helps consumers access Vevo’s “awesome” catalog of more than 450,000 music videos.

“Specialist music channels drove the first wave, with the broadcaster setting the agenda and the playlist,” Schröeder said. “The second wave is driven by the consumer, who is now firmly in control thanks to the power of the app.”

Apple TV App on Vizio Smartcast TVs in U.S. and Canada

Vizio customers in the United States and Canada now have access to the Apple TV app on SmartCast TVs.

For a limited time, eligible Vizio SmartCast customers in the United States can sign up for Apple TV+ and receive three months free.

“With the Apple TV app coming to Vizio SmartCast TVs, customers can enjoy an even broader range of exciting entertainment, including the popular and award-winning Apple TV+ service,” Mike O’Donnell, chief revenue officer of Vizio, said in a statement. “Knowing the important role the TV has in the home, Vizio continues to expand the entertainment available for consumers to discover.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Vizio SmartCast TV users can select the Apple TV app icon from the SmartCast Home screen and sign in with their Apple ID to subscribe to Apple TV+.

Customers can also subscribe to Apple TV channels, such as Showtime, CBS All Access and Starz, and watch online and offline, ad-free and on demand, directly on the Apple TV app. Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share subscriptions to Apple TV channels using their personal Apple ID and password.

Additionally, Vizio SmartCast TV users can browse the Apple TV app to buy or rent more than 100,000 movies and TV shows, including titles available in 4K HDR and with Dolby Atmos, as well as access their library of movie and TV show purchases from Apple.

Vizio customers can also enjoy Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit capabilities on SmartCast TVs. With AirPlay 2, Vizio customers can stream, control, and share their favorite content directly from their iPhone, iPad, or Mac to their Vizio SmartCast TV. HomeKit allows customers to easily and securely control their SmartCast TV using the Home app or by asking Siri on their Apple devices.

Comcast Eyes Leasing X1 Software to TV Manufacturers

Comcast is reportedly considering licensing its X1 set-top box software to third-party consumer electronics manufacturers of smart televisions. Such a move would put Comcast in competition with Roku, Google and Amazon, among other tech companies affording TV manufacturers with Internet-connected consoles.

First reported by Protocol.com, citing sources familiar with the situation, Comcast engaged in initial discussions with TV manufacturers in January at the pre-COVID-19 CES confab in Las Vegas. The cable operator, which is slowly coming to grips with a changing pay-TV market — underscored by the departure of more than 815,000 subscribers through June 30 — currently licenses X1 technology for third-party set-tops to Cox Communications and soon Charter (Spectrum TV Plus).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Roku cut its teeth licensing its operating system through set-top devices manufactured for the former 21st Century Fox’s NOW TV. Comcast now owns NOW TV through its acquisition of Sky from Fox. Samsung, one of the world’s largest TV manufacturers, has begun licensing its Tizen OS smart TV technology to third parties.

Comcast’s move into software licensing could be accelerating after attempts to sell NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service through the Roku platform fell through. Similarly to WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Peacock is also not available on Amazon Fire TV.

Launched in 2012 as Comcast’s antidote to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, cloud-based X1 platform now represents about 60% of the cabler’s pay-TV subscriber base. Since then X1 offers subs access to Netflix and YouTube apps. Comcast also launched broadband-only Xfinity Flex online TV platform.