Google TV could offer native access to Xumo streams

The new Chromecast dongle features Google’s updated Android TV’s software built-in, which the company has renamed “Google TV.” (Photo by Matthew Keys, Graphic by The Desk)

Google is preparing an update to its streaming-focused television operating system that could offer native access to around 50 free, ad-supported linear channels of content, according to a report.

Last week, the technology publication 9to5Google reported Google was moving to offer “its own set of channels” after reviewing code in a forthcoming version of the Android launcher application, which runs in parallel to Google TV.

As it stands now, Google TV offers a “Live” section where users can sift through hundreds of streaming channels powered by Pluto TV, Xumo, YouTube TV, Philo and Sling, assuming users have those apps installed (and a subscription to YouTube TV, Philo or the premium version of Sling).

But the updated launcher would offer access to dozens of linear channels without the need to download a separate application, 9to5Google claimed, which would be the first time Google offered its users native access to free, ad-supported content within the Google TV ecosystem.

While 9to5Google said the company would provide “its own set of channels,” a list published in the article indicates the streams would be powered by Comcast’s free, ad-supported streaming platform Xumo.  Among the channels listed by 9to5Google are Xumo Crime TV, Xumo Movies and Xumo Westerns — each of which is exclusive to the Xumo service.

Other channels, like ABC News Live, CBC News, USA Today, the Pet Collective, Reelz, FailArmy and Chive TV are also offered on free, ad-supported services powered by Pluto TV, the Roku Channel and Fox Corporation’s Tubi, but the inclusion of the Xumo-branded networks strongly indicates Comcast will be a partner in the upcoming initiative.

Neither Google nor Comcast have commented on the 9to5Google report. It was not clear when the Xumo channels were expected to launch on the platform; a review of Google TV’s software installed on a Sony Bravia television listed Xumo as an option for Google’s Channels app, but could not be activated as of Tuesday morning.

Offering native access to free, ad-supported content would put Google TV devices on the same level as its competitors in that space. Roku and Amazon, which command around 70 percent of the domestic streaming platform market, offer free, ad-supported streaming services of their own: Roku users have access to the Roku Channel, while Amazon’s free streaming channels are baked into its Freevee service, which comes pre-installed on Fire TV-powered gadgets.

Ad-supported streaming services are having a moment with television viewers: A recent survey found nearly one out of three homes currently use a free service like the Roku Channel, Pluto TV or Xumo on the regular, an increase from one out of five homes just one year ago. The adoption has been spurred in part by an increase in the availability of content on free platforms, coupled with consumers becoming increasingly more choosy on which streaming services they give their money to.

“While both ad-supported and subscription-based streaming services are growing in the U.S., we’re seeing that consumers are being more mindful of their budgets and leaning towards ad-supported services,” James Muldrew, an executive in charge of product management at Comscore, said earlier this year, noting that the move “makes sense as inflation continues to hit consumers’ wallets.”

Muldrew theorized that the trend has convinced some streaming services like Netflix to consider adding an advertisement-supported tier — something the company affirmed is coming down the line.

“The time is ripe for traditionally subscription-based streaming services like Netflix to consider launching an ad-supported tier to enhance their growth trajectory,” he pronounced.