Comcast eyes Vizio and others for smart TV acquisition

To bolster its smart TV efforts, Comcast has had acquisition talks with multiple TV brands, including California-based Vizio.

Comcast Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts

Comcast is in talks with multiple TV brands.

Photo composite: Ethan Miller/Getty Images (2008) and Protocol

Cable giant Comcast has been weighing the acquisition of a TV-maker to bolster its nascent smart TV platform efforts, Protocol has learned from industry insiders. One of the companies approached by Comcast has been California-based Vizio, according to three sources with knowledge of these conversations.

Separately, Comcast has also eyed TV-maker TP Vision, according to one source with knowledge of those talks. TP Vision is best known as the owner of the Philips brand in Europe, and it already has an existing business relationship with Comcast to manufacture the company’s Sky Glass-branded TV for the U.K. market.

Talks between Comcast and Vizio are said to have occurred both in 2021 and early 2022. It’s unclear how far the discussions with each company progressed, or whether they are still ongoing.

Spokespeople for Comcast and Vizio declined to comment. TP Vision did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s all about XClass … and ads

Comcast began its foray into the smart TV platform world last year with the introduction of the XClass TV brand. The company announced a partnership with TV-maker Hisense in September and has since been selling two XClass-branded smart TVs at Walmart. Separately, Comcast also introduced its own smart TVs via its Sky subsidiary in the U.K.

Protocol broke the news of Comcast’s smart TV plans in August of 2020 and was first to report about the XClass brand last year.

By buying its own TV manufacturer, the company would be able to put more resources behind the development, marketing and sale of its own TV sets. This, in turn, would help Comcast remain relevant in a world where an increasing number of consumers cut the cord, and stream their favorite programming via their smart TVs.

Not only have smart TVs helped to disintermediate streaming, they have also become an important source of revenue for companies like Amazon, Roku and Samsung. That’s due in large part to the growing popularity of ad-supported video, including linear ad-supported streaming channels. Just last week, Comcast put out a report highlighting that six out of 10 households with smart TVs watch these basic cable-like channels.

Vizio is cheap. Maybe too cheap.

Vizio would make an interesting acquisition target for Comcast: The Irvine-based company has been one of the biggest TV brands in the U.S. for a number of years, thanks largely to budget-priced devices. Vizio has also been building out its own advertising business, which includes both ad targeting technology as well as its own free streaming service. In 2021, the company generated $309 million from advertising and other non-hardware revenue sources.

However, Vizio doesn’t have its own manufacturing capabilities and instead depends on contract manufacturers. The company has also struggled to compete with Chinese competitors like TCL, which has its own manufacturing capabilities, giving it more leverage on pricing. During the first quarter of this year, Vizio’s hardware gross margin fell to just 2.1%.

Vizio has in the past looked for an acquirer, and it entered a $2 billion deal with China’s LeEco in 2016. That deal fell apart when LeEco wasn’t able to secure necessary financing. Vizio held talks with multiple possible acquirers following LeEco’s decision to call off the acquisition, but ultimately decided to pursue a public offering last year.

The company’s stock has since struggled, and fell below $9 per share on Tuesday — far below the IPO price of $21 per share. The company’s current market cap is around $1.7 billion, which is less than its 2021 revenue. However, Vizio is a controlled company, and its CEO William Wang owns the vast majority of voting shares, giving him the ultimate say over any possible deal. A source close to the company expressed doubt that Wang would sell for anything close to the current valuation.

Any possible acquisition of a TV manufacturer could also be impacted by Comcast’s decision to enter a streaming joint venture with Charter. Announced in April, the deal is meant to further fuel the cable companies’ streaming platform ambitions. Comcast is looking to contribute its XClass TV efforts as well as its ad-supported streaming platform Xumo to the joint venture, while Charter is adding at least $900 million in capital. The deal is subject to regulatory approval, and it’s possible that Comcast would wait for it to close before making any major acquisitions in the space.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories