Many cord-cutters enjoy the Roku platform, as a way to consume entertainment without having to use the interface and equipment offered by cable companies. Now, there’s a report that one of those cable companies could acquire Roku.
A Wall Street Journal report Wednesday stated that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, while he “doesn’t feel a need to seek a merger,” has been “scoping out options,” and those include an acquisition of Roku or a “tie-up” with ViacomCBS. Sources also said that Comcast proposed a ViacomCBS deal prior to the launch of Paramount+ — one rejected by ViacomCBS — and that Comcast could “pursue the combined WarnerMedia-Discovery down the road.”
The report cited one person close to Roberts. The people involved all declined to comment to the Journal, and it would appear that such a merger is merely a small possibility.
The Journal added that the CEO is “aiming to make Comcast a rival to Roku and Amazon in delivering streaming apps into living rooms, just as it has long delivered cable TV channels.” The piece also reiterated that Comcast is working with Walmart and Hisense to make smart TVs, in a project known as “PlatCo.” That plan was first reported on last year.
The same newspaper had reported in late 2020 that Walmart would “promote TV sets running Comcast software, and would get a share of recurring revenue from Comcast in return.” Hisense has presumably been added to that plan as a hardware partner. This would create a Roku TV-like ecosystem that Comcast would control, while also featuring its streaming service, Peacock, prominently.
The Journal piece also said that Roberts is “pressing NBCUniversal to be more aggressive with Peacock,” in order to get more subscriptions. Comcast is planning to increase the amount of spending it does on programming for Peacock.
“The goal is to turn Comcast, known as a regional U.S. cable company, into a player beyond its traditional cable footprint,” the Journal said.
Comcast, while it remains the largest cable company in the U.S. by a wide margin, has continued to lose pay-TV subscribers. It dropped 491,000 such subscribers in the first quarter of 2021, leaving the company with 19.3 million subscriptions. The company had lost 409,000 in the same quarter the year before, which represented the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
The piece also reveals that in 2015, before Comcast launched the comedy-focused streaming service Seeso, it had promised to make Seeso the exclusive streaming home of “The Office.” However, Comcast backed off that promise once Netflix agreed to pay more. Seeso folded in 2017, after lasting less than two years, although “The Office” has since become exclusive to Peacock, which outbid Netflix in a later round of negotiations.
There was a rumor, nearly exactly one year ago, that Google was looking to buy Roku, but that never came to fruition.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, 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.