The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

Report: Comcast, Walmart discuss smart TV partnership

Walmart could manufacture and sell an X1-enabled line of smart TV sets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Walmart could manufacture and sell an X1-enabled line of smart TV sets, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Comcast and Walmart have held discussions that would see a partnership develop between the two companies over the sale of smart televisions sets, according to a report.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said the conversations between Comcast and Walmart are hypothetical in nature and no formal deal has been forged between the two sides.

But the news comes after a report by Protocol in August that said the cable company had pitched executives at electronics manufacturers about integrating Comcast’s X1 platform directly into smart TV sets.

Comcast currently licenses the X1 platform to other cable companies, including competitor Cox Cable and a handful of regional outlets, as well as a few Canadian pay TV companies where a white label version of the operating system is offered under different names.

It wasn’t clear from the Journal’s report if Comcast would license X1 to Walmart under that name or a different one. If an agreement is made, Walmart is likely to integrate the X1 platform into its Onn-branded television sets.

The Journal said the partnership could be lucrative for Walmart because the retailer stands to take a commission of every TV sold as well as recurring revenue afterward.

Comcast’s discussion with Walmart was confirmed separately by entertainment publication Variety. A top-ranking Comcast executive told the outlet that the company was “constantly having conversations with current and new suppliers about innovation and new products we can bring to our customers, and we don’t share details of those discussions.”

But someone shared details — at least twice — with at least three different media outlets, which indicates plans on Comcast’s end have matured dramatically since they were first reported in August by Protocol.

Without a retail partner like Walmart, Comcast would likely face an uphill battle in the streaming platform space that is dominated by two major players: Amazon and Roku. Two other companies, Apple and Google, also make hardware and supported operating systems for streaming shows and movies to TV sets.

Walmart is one of the biggest sellers of television sets in the country, offering top-name brands like Samsung and LG alongside budget picks from Element, Westinghouse, Hisense, TCL and its own house brand Onn.

Any business dealing between Comcast and Walmart would not be unfamiliar for both companies: Earlier this year, Walmart agreed to sell its Vudu digital movie rental service to Comcast’s Fandango. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Photo of author

About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).