Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

next-upnext upauthorJanko RoettgersNoneDo you know what's coming up next in the world of tech and entertainment? Get Janko Roettgers' newsletter every Thursday.9147dfd6b1
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
Power

Comcast is looking to enter the smart TV wars

The TV giant wants to license its set-top box operating system to TV manufacturers.

Comcast is looking to enter the smart TV wars

At the center of these discussions has been Comcast's X1 platform, which the company built as an operating system for its own set-top boxes over the past decade.

Photo: Comcast

Comcast wants to turn the software running on its set-top boxes into an operating system for smart TVs, Protocol has learned from multiple industry insiders with knowledge of the company's plans.

The company began pitching TV manufacturers on the idea in recent months and had some conversations on the subject at CES in January. It's unclear how far these talks have progressed, but the push underlines the growing importance of smart TVs as a major platform for the future of entertainment.

A Comcast spokesperson declined to comment.

At the center of these discussions has been Comcast's X1 platform, which the company built as an operating system for its own set-top boxes over the past decade. In addition to running on the company's cable boxes, X1 also powers Flex, the Roku-like streaming hardware launched by Comcast last year. Comcast has also for some time pitched X1 to fellow cable operators. Cox, for instance, runs X1 hardware and software under its Contour brand, and Charter executives have publicly acknowledged that the two companies have been negotiating a similar licensing deal.

However, operators like Cox effectively just license and ship white-labeled Comcast hardware. The company's talks with TV makers go a lot further, and would result in X1 running on third-party devices. It would also be the first time that X1 runs directly on a smart TV.

Smart TVs are an attractive target for Comcast for a number of reasons: Like all cable companies, Comcast has been bleeding subscribers. During the first six months of 2020 alone, 815,000 of its customers cut the cord. This year, Comcast made some major moves to target these cord cutters with its own streaming services. The company launched Peacock, its own paid streaming service, last month. And in February, it acquired Xumo, a free streaming service that targets cord cutters with a cable-like TV experience.

However, Comcast's efforts to grow these services have been hampered by conflicts with a new crop of gatekeepers: Peacock's apps are still not available on Roku or Amazon streaming devices, or on smart TVs running Roku's and Amazon's operating systems. TVs that have Comcast's X1 system built-in could put the company's own streaming services front and center, while also increasing Comcast's leverage in negotiations with competitors like Roku and Amazon.

Comcast began building X1 at its Silicon Valley Innovation Lab under the code name "Xcalibur" around a decade ago, and it launched the first set-top box running the platform in 2012. Originally built for its own TV service, X1 has since expanded to run third-party streaming apps from services like Netflix and YouTube.

In September of last year, Comcast acquired Metrological, a company that has been working on bridging the gap between cable operator platforms and streaming apps. Industry insiders told Protocol that Metrological would likely play a major role in getting X1 to work on smart TVs as well.

Even with all the pieces in place, it's unclear whether Comcast will actually succeed in persuading TV makers to adopt its platform. The smart TV OS market has been fiercely competitive, with Roku, Amazon and Google all pitching their software to a small group of manufacturers. Breaking into that world is not an easy feat.

Case in point: Samsung, which runs its own Tizen-based OS on its smart TVs, announced a year ago that it was looking to license the system to its competitors as well. The company has yet to announce any deals with fellow TV manufacturers.

Protocol | Workplace

The pay gap persists for Black women

"The pay gap is a multifaceted problem and any time you have a complex problem, there's not a single solution that's going to solve it."

For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Photo: Christine/Unsplash

Last year's racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd led many tech companies to commit to promoting equity within their organizations, including working toward pay equity. But despite efforts, the wage gap for Black women still persists. For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday represents the estimated number of days into the year it would take for Black women to make what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year, according to the organization Equal Pay Today. And while the responsibility to fix the pay gap falls mostly on companies to rectify, some female employees have taken matters into their own hands and held companies to their asserted values by negotiating higher pay.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

pay

What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

Keep Reading Show less
Alex Katouzian
Alex Katouzian currently serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure (MCI) Business Unit at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. In this role, Katouzian is responsible for the profit, loss and strategy of the MCI BU, which includes business lines for Mobile Handset Products and Application Processor Technologies, 4G and 5G Mobile Broadband for embedded applications, Small and Macro Cells, Modem Technologies, Compute products across multiple OS’, eXtended Reality and AI Edge Cloud products.
Protocol | Workplace

Tech company hybrid work policies are becoming more flexible, not less

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are already changing their hybrid policies to allow for more flexibility.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are all loosening up their strategies around hybrid work, allowing for more flexibility before even fully reopening their offices.

In the last week and a half, Twitter announced it's adopting an asynchronous-first approach, and both Asana and LinkedIn said they would increase the amount of time their employees can work remotely.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Power

Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories