Charter to develop streaming video hardware, platform

The platform will offer features that are similar to ones found on Comcast's X1 or Flex devices.
(Logo: Charter Communications, Graphic: The Desk)

A Charter executive revealed the company is working on a new Internet-based video platform that will exist on a forthcoming line of hardware leased to its Spectrum video customers.

The comments were made by Chris Winfrey, the company’s chief financial officer, at an virtual investor conference held by financial firm Morgan Stanley.

In the past, Charter’s key executives have resisted the idea to offer a standalone streaming platform, saying its existing hardware co-existed well with a strategy to make Spectrum services available on streaming devices manufactured by Apple, Roku and others.

“We don’t feel like we need to have an equipment strategy in the [streaming hardware] place necessarily,” Tom Rutledge, Charter’s chief executive, said earlier this year. “But if we somehow get locked out or everybody builds a walled garden around their hardware or their operating system, we think we can work through our own set-top box strategy and use our own integrated set-top boxes to put apps on them and satisfy our customers.”

That time has apparently come, according to Winfrey, who revealed the company is working on a new IP video-based platform that will exist on a future line of set-top boxes and other devices.

“We’ll make sure that we’re in a position to continue to have a competitive video product,” Winfrey told conference attendees on Friday.

Charter’s current hardware already allows Spectrum video customers to access Netflix and other streaming apps on top of their pay TV experience. Winfrey said Charter will expand on those integrations with its new platform and hardware lineup coming down the line.

The platform and hardware sounds similar to one developed by Comcast called X1, which is both the name of Comcast’s next-generation pay TV hardware as well as the operating system that powers it. X1 is also available to Internet-only subscribers via a similar device called Flex, which Comcast gives to its customers for free.

Comcast licenses the X1 platform and associated hardware to other cable TV companies that use it under various white label brand names. It wasn’t immediately clear if Charter intends to do the same with its forthcoming platform and devices, or if those devices would be offered to the company’s Internet-only customers like Comcast does with Flex.

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