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Comcast will start offering Xumo channels on X1 boxes

Cable customers will get a native way to access Xumo Play's streaming channels through their set-top boxes.

Cable customers will get a native way to access Xumo Play's streaming channels through their set-top boxes.

Comcast’s Xumo Play appears on a smart television set. (Graphic by The Desk)

Comcast will begin offering dozens of free, ad-supported streaming channels from its Xumo Play service through its X1-powered cable set-top boxes, an executive confirmed this week.

Speaking at Questex’s StreamTV Show on Tuesday, Xumo Chief Revenue Officer Colin Petrie-Norris said the move is a “natural fit” for Comcast, which has long offered Xumo Play channels through its Flex streaming TV boxes.

“For Comcast, it is about bringing something that they believe the consumers need to make the video product better,” Petrie-Norris said.

Comcast has offered access to third-party streaming apps like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus through its X1-powered cable boxes for a few years now, and recently began distributing a few streaming-only channels like i24 News and Cheddar News to subscribers.

This week’s affirmation is the first time an executive with Comcast or Xumo has definitively said that streaming channels would be baked into the electronic program guide of its cable boxes for traditional TV customers. Comcast acquired Xumo in 2020, and the Xumo brand is now used for a streaming-focused joint venture operated by the company in partnership with Charter Communications.

Petrie-Norris said it was always Comcast’s intention with Xumo to integrate the free, ad-supported streams across its devices and platforms, but that it takes some time to go from the point of concept to actual deployment.

“It takes a lot more time internally to how you work with a platform to have your channels carried,” Petrie-Norris said. “It’s actually often a very deep integration on the engineering side, to have the channels presented in a way that’s very familiar to the consumer.”

That integration will work similar to how Comcast offers “channels” for its on-demand movies and events. When a customer scrolls to a channel powered by Xumo Play — say, for instance, NBC News Now — clicking into the channel will launch the Xumo app, and the stream for the channel selected will start automatically.

The approach isn’t too different from how other streaming platforms integrate third-party channels into their native directory. Google and Amazon each have their own live TV directory that collates program-related information for hundreds of streaming video channels from dozens of apps like Sling TV, Pluto TV and Fox Corporation’s Tubi.

For Comcast, the integration of Xumo Play channels helps realize synergies across the video brands in a way that will benefit customers and the companies alike. It will also help deliver new data sets to content partners who rely on Xumo Play to get their shows, movies and live programming in front of more people.

“You’re getting real time data back in terms of what’s going on with your channels,” Petrie-Norris said. “We also provide ways that you can automatically reprogram or dynamically reprogram to match what consumers are watching to optimize your engagement.”

The X1 and Flex boxes won’t be the only way Comcast customers can enjoy Xumo Play. The service is available as a free download across most popular smart TV platforms, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV (Google TV), as well as most smartphones and tablets.

Disclosure: The author of this story is a regular contributor to the website Fierce Video, which is owned by Questex, the operator of the StreamTV Show.

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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).