October 7, 2020
Despite the focus on successful subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, free ad-supported TV services have actually been growing at a faster clip. AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) or FAST (free ad-supported TV) is flourishing largely via large media companies. Fox’s Tubi, ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV and Xumo, now owned by Comcast, are all performing well. Xumo has skyrocketed 2.5 times, reaching 24 million U.S. monthly active users. Comcast acquired Xumo in February 2020 from Panasonic and Meredith Corp.
Variety reports that Tubi, which Fox purchased this year, now has 33 million monthly active users, up 65 percent year-over-year, and Pluto TV had 26.5 monthly active users by end of June, up 61 percent from the prior year. Other AVOD players include the Roku Channel, NBCU’s Peacock and Amazon’s IMDb TV.
Xumo chief executive Colin Petrie-Norris admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic was one factor behind the company’s growth, but also pointed to “expanded content, new distribution partners, and a deeper integration of Xumo’s on-demand catalog with parent Comcast Cable’s Xfinity X1 and Flex.” The latter “resulted in a nearly 40 percent increase in viewing sessions” on those platforms.
“For Comcast to decide this is a space worth investing in is real validation,” said Petrie-Norris, who added the platform now has about 200 content partners. “If anything we have been busier than we’ve ever been.” Comcast reportedly paid $100+ million for Xumo, which had almost 60 employees and is based in Irvine, California. Comcast Cable senior vice president of video and entertainment Rebecca Heap oversees Xumo, which operates as a unit of the division.
Variety notes that, while AVOD and subscription VOD services boom, “the loser has been traditional pay-TV,” pointing out that “Comcast’s residential TV subs totaled about 19.5 million at the end of the second quarter of 2020,” a loss of 1.7 million over a 12-month period.
This year, “Xumo has expanded its distribution footprint to 75 percent of connected TV devices with the addition of Sony and Panasonic smart TVs … [and] added new marquee channels featuring content from beIN SPORTS XTRA and America’s Test Kitchen.” It has also “more than doubled its on-demand library of free movies to over 10,000 titles through pacts with Relativity Media and Broad Green Pictures and A24 coming on board soon.”
Genres include “sports, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle and movies.” Xumo is available on “iOS, Android and Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and connected TVs.