Samsung broadens scope of global smart TV OS battle

The competitive market for connected TV operating systems got more heated after Samsung announced Monday that it has secured several new licensing deals for its Tizen software platform.

Samsung said it has signed licensing agreements with a set of international original development manufacturing (ODM) companies: Atmaca, HKC and Tempo. Per Samsung, Tempo will distribute Tizen TVs under the Akai, Bauhn and Linsar brands; HKC will distribute them under the RCA and Vispera brands; and Atmaca will distribute Tizen-powered TVs under the Sunny and Axen brands.

Akai, Bauhn and Linsar Tizen TVs are now available in Australia, with other brands to follow in the fourth quarter of 2022. Tizen-powered TVs will also become available in Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom later in 2022, Samsung said.

Tizen has previously been limited to deployments in Samsung's own TVs. Samsung, which now bills Linux-based Tizen as an "open source" operating system, announced its strategy to license Tizen at the company's developer conference in 2021.

Samsung hasn't detailed the financial or broader business terms of its licensing program for Tizen but said it covers features such as content discoverability tools, apps and an underlying user interface. Tizen partners also have access to Samsung TV Plus – a free, ad-supported streaming product that features hundreds of linear-style channels – and Bixby, Samsung's voice-based navigation and search platform.

Samsung is using the licensing approach to broaden the size and scale of Tizen's presence. The company estimates that, heading into the deals announced today, roughly 200 million people from almost 200 countries use Samsung-made TVs powered by Tizen.

"Starting with these new Tizen-powered smart TVs, we will continue to expand the licensing program and introduce Tizen OS and its ecosystem to more products and brands around the world," Yongjae Kim, EVP of Samsung Electronics' virtual display business, said in a release.

A competitive and crowded market

In addition to broadening the reach of Tizen, Samsung's successful move into the world of TV OS licensing will beef up global competition in what's become a crowded market.

LG Electronics has already taken a similar licensing path for webOS, its software platform for connected TVs. Last year, LG announced that RCA, Ayonz and Konka were among the partners on board to include webOS in select TV models.

Google is focusing on the smart TV sector with its Android TV/Google TV platform, while Amazon has Fire TV. Roku, meanwhile, already has a solid presence in the connected TV market thanks to deals with several TV players, including TCL, Hisense, Westinghouse and Onn, a brand offered by Walmart.

Comcast is also in the game in the US with its relatively new family of XClass TVs and in parts of Europe with Sky's Sky Glass TV lineup. Comcast's smart TV is poised to expand, at least in the US, through a new national streaming joint venture with Charter Communications focused on both streaming players and connected TVs.

Xperi recently signed on Vestel as its first partner to develop and sell connected TVs that run the TiVo operating system. Xperi, which views itself as an independent provider in the smart TV OS sector, expects to launch TiVo-powered smart TV models in multiple European markets in the first or second quarter of 2023.

Foxxum is also in the mix with a new smart TV operating system based on the Reference Design Kit (RDK), an open source software platform operated by a joint venture of Comcast, Charter and Liberty Global. Like Xperi, Foxxum also views itself as an independent player in the TV OS market.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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