If there’s one thing TVs absolutely do not need, it’s a TV OS from Big Cable.
Citing sources familiar with the plans, Protocol reported Friday that Comcast has been exploring using its X1 tech, which currently powers its set-top boxes and the company’s Roku knockoff, Flex, in smart TVs. According to the report, the company has been approaching TV makers about the possibility of using Comcast software in their third-party units, with talks beginning as early as January of this year.
Comcast did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Protocol noted that one reason Comcast may be considering a foray into TV operating systems is to more firmly stake its claim on viewers as companies duke it out in the streaming wars. Another possible reason could be that it’s hemorrhaging cable TV subscribers. But if a Comcast TV OS really is a means of securing subscribers for services like its recently launched platform Peacock, well, good luck. Truthfully, this isn’t altogether surprising—though it is ambitious and wildly misguided.
Right now, Peacock is one of two major 2020 streaming releases that has not yet made its way to Amazon or Roku’s platforms. In Roku’s case, stalled support reportedly stems from exorbitant fees and disagreements over standalone apps (versus subscriptions through Roku itself). And shutting Comcast’s tentpole service out isn’t just a streaming device or app issue, either. Roku and Fire TV power a number of popular TVs on the market, meaning that if any of those TV users actually want access to Peacock, they need to buy a different set-top box or stream it from a non-TV device. (Comcast wouldn’t merely be competing for TV makers against these just two OSes, either. The TV OS space is already a fairly crowded one.)
That’s to say nothing of the fact that Comcast has not historically instilled in consumers any meaningful amount of trust. Its own streaming device, Flex, is essentially a Roku imitator done Big Cable-style. Rather than merely charging you for the device and sending you on your way, Comcast instead imposes long-term agreements and hidden costs that add up to far more than you’d pay to simply buy a normal-ass streaming device like a Fire Stick or Roku. Shady shit like this is exactly why people decided to cut the cord to begin with!
God knows what a Comcast TV OS would even look like, but the company’s track record does not exactly instill confidence that it wouldn’t also somehow wind up being a scam—if anyone actually falls for it.