Comcast appears to be nearing the introduction of a pair of smart TVs manufactured by China's Hisense that are outfitted with a version of the cable operator's X1 software platform, according to details uncovered by Protocol.
Those connected TVs, which will carry the "XClass" brand, will be powered by software that Comcast already uses for its X1 pay-TV service as well as Xfinity Flex, the cable operator's streaming/smart home product for broadband-only customers, the report said.
Comcast has previously divulged a desire to develop a smart TV strategy anchored by its software platform but has not announced any firm manufacturing and distribution deals for such products. The Wall Street Journal reported last November that Comcast had held smart TV-related talks with Walmart.
Comcast has not formally announced any smart TV products, but Protocol points to various evidence, including a registered trademark, a Hisense page referencing "Hisense Comcast TVs," and a temporary staging site, that clearly indicates plans for a lineup of XClass-branded TVs.
"XClass TV is a smart TV that brings all your favorite apps, live channels, and On Demand movies and shows together in one place," read an FAQ on the temporary site that, at last check, is no longer posted. "XClass TV... gives you thousands of free movies, shows, music, and more. And to find what you love faster, XClass TV comes with a voice remote that lets you control your TV and search across apps with just your voice."
According to Protocol, that same staging site referenced two 4K TV models – a 43-inch set and a 50-inch set – that will come with a dedicated voice remote. Comcast's new TVs will reportedly tie in apps from OTT services such as Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, Tubi, Pluto and Peacock, the streaming service from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal. Consumers who activate an XClass TV are also in line for a year of Peacock's ad-supported premium tier, according to the staging site details reviewed by Protocol. It's not yet clear if Comcast will offer its own pay-TV app via XClass TVs inside or outside its traditional cable service footprint.
Comcast's move into the smart TV market will create an opportunity for the company to extend and expand the reach and scale of its technology domestically and internationally. Comcast has already broadened the reach of X1 through syndication deals with Cox Communications and three Canadian cable operators – Shaw Communications, Rogers Communications and Rogers.
It would also represent Comcast's first big move into the TV retail market since a short-lived partnership with Panasonic focused on "Tru2way" (a consumer brand for the old OpenCable Application Platform) sets that were sold in a set of Comcast markets. Those Panasonic Tru2way sets supported Comcast's digital cable service, including its VoD service, and required a CableCARD security module. Panasonic dropped its Tru2way initiative in the summer of 2010.
Comcast will of course have plenty of company as it enters the smart TV market. Amazon, for one, introduced a lineup of Amazon-built connected TVs last week, with TCL identified as one of Amazon's initial manufacturing partners. Comcast's new lineup will also be pitted against major TV makers that operate their own software platforms – Samsung (Tizen), LG (webOS) and Vizio – as well as Roku and Google, which have integrated their respective streaming platforms with connected TVs made by a slew of manufacturing partners.
- Comcast, Walmart in smart TV talks – report
- Amazon sparks line of Amazon-built TVs
- Comcast wants to go global on smart TVs, CEO says
- Why the time is ripe for Comcast to blow past its borders
- Panasonic Tunes Out Tru2way TVs
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading