With the launch of XClass TV in the US and Sky Glass TV in the UK, Comcast put its toe on the almost $ 200 billion in the global smart TV market in 2021. What will the cable and broadband provider, the Hollywood studio, the global broadcaster and the emerging device maker do for a replay in 2022?
Well, more. Probably a batch plus.
In October, Comcast released its 50 inch ($ 348) and 43 inch ($ 298) Televisor Hisense 4K UHD XClassThey run a version of the same user interface that is already installed on millions of Comcast Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and Sky Glass devices. XClass TV runs all major broadcasters, doesn’t require you to live in a Comcast market, and includes a free one-year Peacock premium tier.
In 2022, Comcast plans to sell more televisions, with more features, from more manufacturers, at higher prices, in more global markets and in more retailers. Sky Glass will expand from the UK to Sky’s other European markets, and XClass TV will expand its offering in the US from two entry-level Hisense displays sold exclusively through Walmart to high-end displays and wide retail availability. .
“We intend to work with more partners on the manufacturing side and more on the non-exclusive distribution side,” Comcast XClass TV Director Andrew Olson told Jugo Mobile.
Comcast’s Sky Glass in the UK, which Olson helped develop, probably offers some clues as to where XClass TV is headed in the US. website and in his advertisement video, Sky Glass compares itself to a smartphone: a high-end device, designed for content, that you can buy with monthly payments without interest.
Olson sat down with Jugo Mobile to discuss the design of the XClass TV and what’s in store for us in 2022.
DECIDER: All TV platforms have a Netflix app, they all play 4K video, have voice remotes, etc. What is the main sale of XClass TV?
ANDREW OLSON: We have spent decades thinking about how to make tens of millions of people like to watch television. In recent years, in particular, there has been an evolution towards apps, and apps are difficult for consumers to navigate. The most important thing we bring is the ability to help customers navigate that world of applications.
I set up an XClass TV demo unit a few weeks ago, and it was the fastest and smoothest onboarding I have ever experienced with a TV. How did you navigate designing and testing that process?
When we talk internally about the product, we try to frame those discussions in terms of “the consumer wants …”, “the consumer likes …” rather than what us we want as designers. We asked customers a lot of questions about how they use their TV and we tried to keep the things they like and get rid of the things they don’t like.
We ran a lot of testing by placing consumers in rooms and watching them navigate a device, but that’s after seeing what seems to and doesn’t seem to work and building a hypothesis of a smooth onboarding process.
I’m a huge fan of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Push, which is about presenting the right options to consumers. When you are designing the flowchart on how to set up an XClass TV or how to rent a movie, are you primarily focusing on the few clicks it should take?
master Push. master Think fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman. When people sit on the couch watching TV, they don’t want to think about it so much. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for them to access the content they love so they can sit back and enjoy it.
Sometimes it’s the fewest clicks and sometimes a few more clicks with easy decisions. The important thing is to design for the 80% -90% use case for what consumers want to do and less for the 10% -20% edge cases.
I see it especially in the XClass TV settings. If you’re setting me the highest video resolution a streamer offers, I don’t need a ton of extra video settings.
Customers do three things on their televisions: find things, watch things, and resume them. We are trying to stay out of it as much as possible on everything else.
Speaking of resuming content, the top row of the interface shows the current episode for some streamers, but not others. Is it a work in progress?
This. That top bar, which we call Launchpad, shows the most recent things you’ve been looking at. It’s like the history of a browser and is one of the most popular features of Xfinity X1. Since XClass is a television, there is something else. We have inputs, antenna channels, etc., in that Launchpad row.
With apps, we have different rules to follow depending on the app, and that will continue to evolve as we work with our content partners and learn more about what customers like and dislike.
How much will the XClass TV adapt to what I watch? If I rent a lot of movies, will movie rentals become more prominent? If I watch a lot of Pluto TV, will I watch those channels higher up in the live interface?
The interface will become more dynamic over time, both in terms of what we’re doing with it and how it learns what and how you watch. We want to make sure that we help customers see what they want to see, but without making it difficult to do new things. It’s a good balance and it will continue to evolve.
How much are you thinking of XClass TV as part of a smart home?
The XClass platform is open enough for device companies to write smart home apps that will run on the TV. We’re also working with partners to expose those features more deeply in the interface where we think it makes sense for customers. We want to balance all of that with the simplicity of a TV that doesn’t have to think too much about sitting down to watch.
I did not install an antenna on the XClass TV demo unit that I have been using. How do you integrate an antenna into the interface?
Antenna channels fit nicely into the Launchpad row, and you can switch between live channels pretty easily that way. You will also see the channel guide for those live streaming channels.
What other apps are streaming in 4K?
So far Netflix, HBO Max, Disney +, Prime Video, and Vudu. Hisense makes a fantastic 4K display, so we want more services that are available in the app to make those services available in 4K video. We are also adding Dolby Atmos audio capability to more services as we go along.
Apple TV is one of the few streaming apps that isn’t available, and it was announced. When will that come?
We are working on that now. That should be implemented in the first quarter of 2022.
That should also launch in the first quarter of 2022. You can also subscribe to Starz on Hulu, Sling TV, or YouTube TV, which are currently available on XClass TV.
The peacock is included free for one year. Doesn’t that require me to be a Comcast cable or broadband subscriber?
Correct. If you buy an XClass TV and you’re not a Comcast customer, you’ll get free Peacock for the first year.
XClass TV, Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, and Sky Glass are all versions of the same platform. Has that accelerated the addition of streamers to XClass TV?
It definitely has. This was the fastest product launch in Comcast history because we started with everything in one place on our global technology platform. One thing that has really helped with the release is that the applications in XClass are not actually installed on the device. When you start the Bravo app, it starts on the device without installing the app.
That is interesting. I assumed that the lack of a designated app store on XClass TV was a design choice, that it was hiding some of those gears within the interface, but you don’t really need a workflow to download apps.
There are still “apps”, but they are dynamically loaded from the cloud. We worked a lot during the design of Xfinity X1 to run those operations from the cloud, and now we are working with our content partners to run their applications on X1, Flex, XClass and Sky Glass (40 million devices) from the cloud.
When will XClass TV have apps for Comcast, Charter, Cox, etc. cable subscribers to be able to use their cable service without a cable box?
We are working on several of those apps now with plans to start rolling out in early 2022. XClass TV is a national platform and we want it to be an easy user experience for people with cable subscriptions. We already have YouTube TV, Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV on the platform.
For consumers who live in Comcast markets and have cable or broadband service from Xfinity, will you make a subscription package available specifically for XClass TV users?
As with our Xfinity Subscriber Flex Box, you will be able to subscribe to the Xfinity video service if you live in an Xfinity marketplace. We have no plans to release a separate XClass TV content pack.
XClass TV launched on two entry-level LED fixtures from Hisense. Will it ever be released on some high-end OLED devices?
We have nothing to announce at the moment, but we started with a mass market price and Hisense makes a very sophisticated device at that price. The operating system is designed to run on very high-end devices. We can go to bigger screens and different types of screens with more powerful audio. We will work with partners to address different parts of the market.
When you say “partners,” are you referring to Hisense and other TV manufacturers?
Does Comcast envision the XClass distribution eventually turning into something like the mobile phone distribution where you get a new XClass TV when you set up your Xfinity or Charter service?
We are definitely looking into that, but we have nothing to announce other than to say that your point is well made.
Does it make sense to you for consumers to purchase an XClass TV at the same location where they sign up for broadband or cable?
Yes, that is something that certainly makes sense.
Scott Porch writes about the television business for Jugo Mobile. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Beast and produces the Must look broadcast podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottPorch.