Comcast pondering hook-up with ViacomCBS or acquisition of Roku – report

Comcast is wrestling with build or buy options as it seeks a way to become a "streaming powerhouse," with a tie-up with ViacomCBS or acquisition of Roku among the ideas that are being bounced around, The Wall Street Journal reported in a story focused on Comcast's streaming ambitions.

A potential combo with ViacomCBS has been rumored, given the need for content players to scale up in order to be successful long-term in the streaming era. It's not known if Roku could even be brought to the table to chat about potential M&A with Comcast, now the only major company on the block with sizable distribution (primarily via its cable operation) and content plays (NBCU) now that AT&T is set to spin out its pay-TV business and merge WarnerMedia (along with HBO Max) with Discovery. The paper noted that industry insiders also suggested that Comcast could try to work a deal with the combined WarnerMedia-Discover "down the road."

The purported Roku interest is interesting merely by the fact that Comcast, whose NBCU unit is pushing hard into the streaming game with Peacock, appears to be interested in becoming Roku-like on its own. It has discussed the idea of taking its Flex platform out of footprint, licence its X1/Flex tech on a global basis, and has reportedly had talks with Walmart about developing smart TVs that are powered by Comcast's video software/cloud platforms.

Under that plan, the TV would boot up to a screen, possibly using Comcast's branding, that supports a menu of streaming apps much in the way that consumers get today on a Roku or Amazon Fire TV device, the report noted. It would also transform Comcast into a video services and platform player that would extend well beyond its traditional cable footprint.

Comcast has already faced some pressure to separate its distribution and content businesses. Yet, the company has an internal project underway called "PlatCo" that involves Comcast possibly working with Walmart and China TV maker Hisense in an arrangement that would result in smart TVs that use Comcast tech, sold in stores later this year, the paper said, citing people familiar with the idea.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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