In surprising news with potential to rattle the established market for TVs, Comcast and Walmart are repeatedly in talks to team up on smart TVs.
According to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday, the deal laid out a scenario in which Walmart would “promote TV sets running Comcast software, and would get a share of recurring revenue from Comcast in return.” The sets themselves would be manufactured by a third party, but the TVs would possibly be sold with Walmart branding.
The report is in line with reports throughout the year that Comcast is looking to put its X1 technology on smart TVs, in order to compete with established smart TV interfaces like Roku TV, LG’s webOS, Samsung’s Tizen and others. Walmart has a separate deal with Roku to sell low-cost Roku TV models under the “Onn” brand.
Walmart, per a report by The Information in early August, pressured Vizio to remove the Amazon Prime button from TV remotes on some TVs sold at Walmart. The retail giant did this, per the report, because it views Amazon as a competitor. Another factor was that the pressure came ahead of the launch of its Walmart+ membership program, which competes with Amazon Prime.
A report back in August had said that Comcast was in talks with TV manufacturers to put its technology on their TVs, and CEO Brian Roberts said at a tech conference in September that the company is “looking at smart TVs on a global basis, and we’re wondering—can we bring our same tech stack for certain capabilities in aggregation to consumers who are relying more and more on smart TVs?”
Should the Walmart/Comcast deal happen, it would represent Comcast going to a nontraditional source, possibly by creating a new TV brand rather than working with existing ones.
It would also show Comcast once again moving beyond its core business, as cord-cutting trends accelerate during the coronavirus pandemic. In the third quarter, Comcast lost another 273,000 cable customers, after losing over 400,000 in each of the first two quarters of the year. The company did, however, gain 633,000 high-speed internet customers in those three months, which it touted as a new record, and said that it has totaled twenty-two million “sign-ups” for its streaming service Peacock.
The Journal added that going the route with Walmart would give Comcast the opportunity to market to a national footprint, while also emphasizing Peacock in the new TVs.
Comcast didn’t comment to the Journal, while Walmart’s vice president of electronics said on the record that “we’re constantly having conversations with current and new suppliers about innovation and new products we can bring to our customers.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.