In April 2022, cable operators Comcast and Charter announced a partnership that the companies said would produce “a next-generation streaming platform on a variety of branded 4K streaming devices and smart TVs.” A few months later, we learned that this joint effort would be called Xumo, and now the first hardware device is making its way to customers. It’s called the Xumo Stream Box, and at the outset, it’s available within Spectrum’s service footprint — with availability for Comcast’s Xfinity customers to follow.
As the consumer exodus from traditional cable continues, the Stream Box is meant to be an end-all, be-all solution that combines inexpensive subscription bundles with an avalanche of FAST (free ad-supported television) programming. It’ll also include plenty of preinstalled third-party streaming apps — yes, including Disney Plus — making the device a competitor to Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and other devices. The Stream Box uses Comcast’s Entertainment OS platform as its foundation and comes with a voice remote for universal search.
Live TV is definitely the focal point: according to a press release, when you start up the Stream Box, the first thing you’ll see is “live video playing from the device’s primary video service app such as Spectrum TV, Xfinity Stream, or Xumo Play” with a guide for easy channel surfing. But if you’re not in the mood for live content, there’s “a curated, content-forward viewing experience that blends AI-driven personalization and human-led editorial recommendations to help customers find something to watch without having to jump in and out of apps.” Each member of a household can also make their own personalized “My List” with shows and movies they want to watch across numerous streaming services.
None of that stands out as particularly unique when contrasted with any number of streaming devices. Take a quick glance at the Stream Box’s homescreen, and it almost looks like Android TV. And I’d argue the company’s stated goal of developing “a complete entertainment experience that breaks down the streaming silos and makes TV easy again” is the same north star that guides much of the competition. But for the two partners, this is really about adapting to the reality that traditional linear viewership is in a state of decline, with on-demand streaming continuing to surge.
Charter and Comcast are taking slightly different approaches in how they’ll offer Stream Box to their respective customers. New Charter cable subscribers can get one free box at no extra charge for the first year; additional units are available at an added cost. (You can either buy them outright for $60 or pay a monthly $5 service fee.) Meanwhile, Comcast will target the Stream Box at new Xfinity internet customers when it begins rolling out the hardware in its own markets sometime in the next few months. This is only the starting point for the 50/50 Xumo partnership, with other devices and Xumo TVs to follow as two influential cable providers try to maintain their foothold amid major shifts in how people seek out entertainment.
Update, October 6th 9:30AM ET: The article has been updated to clarify that new Charter subscribers — not existing customers — are eligible for a free Stream Box for the first year.