A FAST streamer aiming to be just more than FAST
You’ve probably heard of Xumo, one of those “FAST” apps in the streaming landscape competing with Pluto TV, Redbox, Amazon’s Freevee, and others in the growing Free Advertising Supported Television landscape, with over 190 channels dedicated to a wide variety of genres.
But Xumo is aiming for more as it looks to become the streaming provider for your cable company.
Believe it or not, Xumo isn’t some hotshot company who popped up overnight; it was founded in 2011 as a joint venture of Viant, a subsidiary of the former Meredith Corporation and Panasonic and added the service to Vizio and Panasonic Smart TVs as an app in 2015, expanding to LG and Funai. Time Inc. bought Viant in 2016, and soon added apps available through Google Play for smartphones and tablets. Comcast bought Xumo in 2020 to join the growing FAST category, and two years later Charter Communications came on board as a partner, making it a joint venture. Since Comcast bought Xumo, the company added content from their owned NBCUniversal studio and added Xumo to Xfinity platforms, the branded name Comcast uses to sell their products.
Since the joint venture between the two was announced, Xumo plans to sell branded streaming boxes, hook up with TV manufacturers such as Hisense to sell Xumo-branded TVs and 4k sets from Element Electronics.
This week at the Cable-Tec expo in Denver, Charter – who sells products under the Spectrum name – announced it is phasing out the traditional cable box and replacing them with those small-sized Xumo streaming boxes so viewers can have their local and linear channels – and those streaming apps such as Netflix, Max, Prime – and FAST apps Pluto TV and of course Xumo – whose streaming app is now known as Xumo Play – all in one place, with the ability to store DVR content in the cloud, create curated playlists, and comes with a voice-activated remote. Xfinity also plans to rollout the new boxes for their customers in the near future, but did not say if it would be a replacement for the traditional cable box. Spectrum customers can buy the box for $60 or rent it for $5 per month for a year.
Mediacom announced this week it is also partnering with Xumo to bring its streaming boxes to customers, but it will not be a replacement for the cable box – at least not yet. Cox also has added Xumo boxes (under the Contour name), as did Canadian providers Rogers, Shaw, and Videotron (in Quebec.)
But there are those who have questions -especially from the NCTC (National Content and Technology Cooperative), who represents numerous smaller cable operators who have forty million broadband customers in mostly smaller markets. “If they want to do a deal with me, I’ve got to be able to assess what’s the real opportunity for my membership and then what is the benefit to the membership where we could have the relationship at the NCTC level,” CEO Lou Borelli told LightReading, concerned about using products from Xumo who also happen to be his competitors, but is interested.
Recently, DirecTV rolled out its new Gemini streaming box for its traditional satellite and DirecTV streaming customers, which not only comes with linear channels but those precious streaming apps (there is a catch – if you are a long-time subscriber and looking to upgrade, you will have to go back under contract to do so.)
The sea of change to streaming continues to march ahead as traditional cable becomes more and more obsolete thanks in part to cord-cutting and the decline of the traditional pay TV bundle. Wide Open West (known as WOW and sold off some of their systems including their Chicago accounts to Astound/RCN) is no longer doing traditional cable installs and contracted their business out to Google’s YouTubeTV instead.
Looking at this another way, the demise of the cable box is a step up as the cable industry was notoriously known for bad service and tardy installation techs – even inspiring a 1996 movie with Jim Carrey called The Cable Guy. Taking a day off from work only for the cable guy not to show up…boy, those were the days.
Disclosure: The person who wrote this article is a DirecTV subscriber.