Comcast, Charter Form Joint Venture to Launch Nationwide Streaming Platform

Devices based on Comcast's Flex technology will offer free Xumo channels, access to Peacock and other 'top' apps

Comcast Charter Streaming JV - Flex
Courtesy of Comcast

Comcast and Charter Communications, the two biggest cable operators in the U.S., are joining forces in the streaming wars.

The two companies announced a 50-50 joint venture to develop and launch a “next-generation streaming platform” on a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs to reach customers in major markets across the country. The yet-unnamed JV will aim to compete with streaming platforms like Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple TV 4K.

The key driver for the union: Both Comcast and Charter want to deliver a single streaming-aggregation platform available across the U.S. — not just in their regional operating footprints — giving them better leverage to ink deals with hardware makers, app developers, and retailers. The JV’s expected sources of revenue include ad sales and ecommerce capabilities, as well as distribution deals with third-party streamers.

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

The joint venture’s products will feature “hundreds” of free content choices through Xumo, which currently delivers more than 200 individual streaming channels. Peacock, the streaming service from Comcast’s NBCUniversal, and Charter’s Spectrum app also will be featured on the JV’s streaming platform alongside “all the top apps” from other providers.

The XClass TVs for the streaming JV will be available through national retail partners and — potentially — directly from Comcast and Charter. 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 4K streaming TV devices and voice remotes for the JV’s unified platform beginning in 2023, and Comcast will continue to offer the Flex streaming platform as a streaming device and service to its own cable customers.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Charter to bring this platform and its award-winning experience to millions of new customers. These products are all designed to make search and discovery across live, on-demand and streaming video seamless and incredibly simple for consumers,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson 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.”

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge added, “Our new venture will bring a full-featured operating platform, new devices, and smart TVs with a robust app store providing a more streamlined and aggregated experience for the customer. 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.”

Comcast and Charter are in the process of scouting for an executive to head the joint venture. The deal forming the JV is subject to usual closing conditions. The venture does not involve the broadband or cable video businesses of either Comcast or Charter, which will remain independent, the companies said.

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(Pictured above: Comcast’s Xfinity Flex streaming device and remote)