The Streamable is reporting that Comcast may begin to sell its Flex streaming box in retail spaces in order to encourage users to adopt its platform vs more established home brands like Roku and Amazon. Comcast has been growing its own streaming platform as well as its Xfinity streaming services including cable TV streaming over time through apps on streaming devices and via the Flex boxes.
The move may be a reaction to the near-constant drama between streaming platforms and content providers as highlighted by the high-profile tiff between Roku and Amazon that temporarily prevented Peacock from being available on Roku devices and still prevents Comcast from having an official Peacock app on Fire TV. If a Flex box were to hit the market nationally you can better believe that Peacock would be available.
Both Roku and Amazon have been positioned as gatekeepers in the industry because of the sheer breadth of their reach. Between the two platforms, they control 80% of the streaming audience despite competition from Apple, Google, LG, and Samsung? Why? Because they got in on the game early, partnered with low-cost TV manufacturers and sold products at a low price point. Both companies also benefitted from an almost counter-cultural reputation. Roku and Fire TV products were what you went out and bought to kick Comcast and other pricy cable TV bundles out of your house.
This leads us to an important question. With only 20 percent of the market not already controlled by Roku and Amazon can Comcast find a way in? It is important to know why the two leading platforms are so popular in the first place. Both have entry points as low as $30.00. Both support thousands of apps, not just the top 100 or less. Amazon benefits from being an open platform that allows users to download apps designed for Android devices. Roku was the first consumer brand to fully embrace streaming and is seen as the open neighborhood for all services. Will customers look to one of the most disliked and derided communications company’s in the country and invite them into their homes? If Comcast starts selling its devices nationally will it limit apps that compete with its TV product?
If Comcast actually begins to sell the devices in stores it might signal that the company is moving further towards being a data provider than a TV provider. In its actual footprint obviously, users who wish to access streaming content through the Flex box itself will need internet, and you can better believe they will be encouraged to sign up with Xfinity. But on top of that, the boxes present an entirely different advertising stream for the company. Roku has become in some respects just as much of an ad platform as it is a streaming platform. Were Comcast to be able to sell ad space on the platform and push more people towards its own ad-supported service Peacock, this could put it in a different kind of conversation than other cable/Internet providers.
Would Roku or Fire TV users ditch their current streaming set up for a Comcast-controlled one?