Waging battle in the ongoing streaming wars means spending a lot of money to gain even a slight edge over the competition, sometimes even on services and products most everyday TV watchers have never heard of. For instance, Comcast announced on Tuesday that it’s acquired Xumo, an over-the-top streaming service with a paid and ad-supported free tier for both live and on-demand programming.
Where did this company come from, why is it at all valuable, and why does it sound like the name of a pokémon? Those are good questions, and Comcast may very well have the answers, although it’s not disclosing how much it paid for the company or why Xumo, like competing Walmart-owned Vudu and soon-to-be-Fox-owned Tubi, sound like the names for mythical bird creatures. It did, however, report more than 5 million users in April of last year, so it’s not totally unheard of.
Here’s what we do know: Xumo is an Irvine, California-based streaming service that was started back in 2011 by Myspace parent company Viant, which is now a part of the media conglomerate Meredith Corporation, which owns Entertainment Weekly, People, and dozens of other legacy media brands. Meredith acquired Viant as part of its 2018 acquisition of Time Inc. — because, if you’re still following here, Time thought buying the owner of Myspace a decade after the social network peaked was a good idea. But Viant bought out Meredith’s stake in the company last year to go independent, but Meredith retained its stake in Xumo.
Xumo was started in partnership with Panasonic, presumably so the two companies could slap the Xumo logo on a smart TV home screen in the hopes that anyone at all would click on it and maybe sign up.
Eventually, LG and Vizio also began serving up Xumo via smart TVs, and the company’s offerings grew to over 190 “channels” that effectively bundled live and on-demand programming in a way that is supposed to bridge cable and Netflix. In that way, it’s a lot like Vudu, which Comcast is considering buying from Walmart, as well as services like the ViacomCBS-owned Pluto and the streaming arm of Amazon-owned IMDb.
How could a company like Xumo possibly help Comcast win in the streaming wars? It’s not clear, but giant media conglomerates are gobbling up smaller companies like this, or trying to buy them out from rivals, left and right in a bid to pad out their entertainment offerings and cover as many bases as possible.
It could just be that Comcast wants an ad-supported paid-TV streaming service so it can say it has one (in addition to NBCUniversal’s upcoming Peacock streaming service and the dizzying mound of media junk branded with the Xfinity name) and because the AVOD (or ad-supported video on-demand) market is growing incredibly fast, as The Wrap points out. For instance, Pluto reported an eye-popping 22 million monthly active users earlier this month, which is a 75 percent jump from a year ago.
Perhaps there really is some secret sauce at Xumo on the technical side that makes it worthy of an acquisition. Either way, the hunger for content is insatiable, and companies are willing to write the checks to keep feeding the beast.
“The talented team at XUMO has created a successful, growing, and best-in-class set of streaming capabilities. We are excited for this team to join Comcast and look forward to supporting them as they continue to innovate and develop their offerings,” Comcast said in a statement. “XUMO will continue to operate as an independent business inside of Comcast Cable. The financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.”
Update March 2nd, 3:17PM ET: Clarified that Viant Technologies bought out the stake of its company owned by Meredith Corporation in November of last year, following the Time Inc. sale.