US telco Comcast has announced a deal to buy free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service XUMO for an undisclosed fee. Comcast says XUMO will continue to operate as an independent business inside of Comcast Cable. The move comes at a time of increased interest in ad-supported streaming, as the subscription video on-demand (SVOD) market becomes increasingly saturated.
XUMO, founded in 2011, hosts a mix of linear and on-demand content, sorted into over 190 different genre grouped channels. The service mirrors traditional broadcast TV, with the channels organised into a ‘channel guide’ which users can flick through to browse content. It is currently available in the USA, Canada, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Mexico.
“The talented team at XUMO has created a successful, growing, and best-in-class set of streaming capabilities,” Comcast said in a statement. “We are excited for this team to join Comcast and look forward to supporting them as they continue to innovate and develop their offerings.”
XUMO hosts channels from traditional media brands like Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, ABC and CBSN, as well as from digital natives like CollegeHumor, Mashable and Tastemade. The broadcaster runs ad pods on this linear content, similar to those found on traditional broadcasts, which the company says are fully addressable.
Comcast’s acquisition of XUMO isn’t its only move into ad-supported streaming. NBCUniversal is launching its new streaming service Peacock later this year, which will be an SVOD service, but with two ad-supported subscription tiers (though a third, ad-free subscription tier will also be available). While this model is similar to that used by long-established US OTT service Hulu, Peacock is fairly unique in the new wave of SVOD service in including advertising.
But while Peacock will focus on NBCUniversal produced content, XUMO serves as a platform for distributing third-party content (alongside some NBCU content), more akin to Comcast’s traditional cable business.
The acquisition follows media conglomerate Viacom’s purchase of FAST platform Pluto TV last year. But while Viacom’s acquisition seems designed to give the company another avenue to distribute its own content, Comcast’s deal seems designed to support its traditional cable business, offering an alternative for cord-cutters turned off by cable’s high prices and heavy ad loads (XUMO restricts advertising to five minutes per hour).