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Comcast Pulls A FAST One

Comcast is buying Xumo, the second of the FASTS (Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television Service) to get snapped up (Pluto, which was purchased by Viacom last year was the first, and rumors abound that Fox is about to make Tubi the third.)

This is significant for several reasons.

The first is that it confirms that the FASTS are actually a thing now. When they launched, the industry was seriously skeptical—the programming was pretty much a mix of reruns Netflix, Amazon and Hulu had passed over, mixed in with hit movies from the 80s and 90s and some web-based programming that had never been watched on an actual TV set before.

And yet, they persisted.

The “why” behind that is not too difficult to figure out.

At least not in retrospect, lol.

One reason was that they did a great job positioning themselves, striking deals with major TV OEMs and with device OEMs like Roku, so that when you turned on the TV, they were already there and they were free.

Then there was the actual programming itself, which filled an important gap the industry seemed to have forgotten about: people don’t always want to watch an Important Show They Need To Pay Close Attention To every time they turn on the TV.

Sometimes they just want to veg on the couch. Answer some emails. Maybe cook dinner.

And the FASTS’ combination of reruns and old movies solved for that, as did the linear-like channels many of them offered, which absolved the user from having to actually decide what to watch next.

Finally there were the ad loads themselves, which were generally about half of what cable and broadcast networks offered and decidedly light on those cringey “Here’s 60 Seconds About Death and Dying!” pharma spots.

So there’s that, which is why advertisers, who were looking to get into CTV as a way to provide more targeted advertising so as to gain incremental reach against key demographics and/or people they’d missed in their traditional ad buys, came on board.

So What’s In It For Comcast?

The assumption is that this is a baby shower gift for Peacock, that Xumo’s platform, and ability to sell and serve targeted addressable ads to an on-demand audience, will provide great value to the new NBCU-centric Flix that Comcast is launching.

And that all of that additional content will also help flesh out Peacock’s library even further, so that viewers stick around even if all they want to do is have something on in the background while they cook.

Xumo’s linear like feeds can also help Peacock figure out the next evolution of Flixes, which we’re thinking is going to be personalized linear feeds, something akin to Spotify’s Daily Mixes. It makes sense for a host of reasons, including the drive towards customization and the fact that CTV advertisers are buying audiences, not programs.

What To Look For Next

The obvious thing to look for is whether Fox buys Tubi, which our sources seem to indicate is more or less a done deal.

After that, it’s looking at what effect the purchases of Pluto, Xumo and Tubi have on the Roku Channel and Amazon’s IMDBTV. (Provided Amazon ever gets around to promoting IMDBTV, which may just be the worst name for a network ever, albeit the best reason to use the CAPS LOCK key.)

Will viewers still gravitate to those completely free options or will they just default to the Flixes for their free ad supported streaming TV?

And what happens to all the deals the FASTS have with the various OEMs? Do they keep their programming on the smart TVs because it’s not really competition and it gives them more places to reach the audiences who might see their ads, or do they pull it off in the name of brand identity?

We will find out soon enough, along with whether viewers see any real difference between the various FASTS.