Five months before launching highly anticipated streaming service Peacock, Comcast has reportedly been conducting exclusive negotiations to acquire Xumo, a notable startup player in ad-supported streaming.
The Wall Street Journal reported the talks Thursday evening, but it cautioned the discussions could still fall apart before a deal is reached. Comcast and Xumo reps did not immediately respond to inquiries from Deadline.
No price range was reported by the Journal, but one recent benchmark was Viacom’s $340 million acquisition of a Xumo rival, Pluto TV, last January. Xumo, along with Pluto, Tubi and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, which owns Crackle and other AVOD platforms, has been one of the best-known brands in the growing sector of ad-supported streaming.
Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia are competing in the ad-free, subscription streaming arena against entrenched competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. But there is a growing contingent willing to place significant bets on advertising being an acceptable tradeoff for viewers, especially given the decades-long presence of TV ads and the rising costs of subscription streaming.
It is not clear whether Comcast would view a possible Xumo purchase as giving the company and its NBCUniversal subsidiary a plug-and-play platform for the planned ad-supported component of Peacock. Subscription options are also in the offing. Xumo could also sit alongside Peacock. Such is the setup at ViacomCBS, which operates Pluto as a free service populated by Viacom programming while also looking to sign up paying subscribers to CBS All Access and Showtime.
Comcast has thus far leveraged the streaming assets of Sky, the massive European pay-TV operation it bought for $40 billion last year, as it has built Peacock. Even so, the assets and expertise of Xumo could be helpful, especially since it has longstanding relationships with smart-TV makers like Samsung and Vizio as well as third-party streaming enablers like Roku.
Xumo was founded in 2011 and counts Meredith Corp. owner of brands like People magazine as one of its stakeholders.
Comcast has also committed $500 million to support employees impacted by the pandemic.
NBCUniversal and other parts of the Comcast family on Wednesday internally unveiled measures to support employees and others impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Top executives, including Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, CFO Mike Cavanagh, Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch, are donating their salaries to charities engaged in coronavirus relief until the virus crisis passes.
Roberts, in a memo obtained by THR, also said that Comcast was committing $500 million to help staff with pay and benefits if their business units have been shut down due to the pandemic.
"Across our businesses, we have committed $500 million to support our employees through continued pay and benefits where operations have been paused or impacted, and we have committed significant resources to support our customers," Roberts wrote. "Additionally, effective today, and for the duration of this situation, our senior leaders, Mike Cavanagh, Dave Watson, Jeff Shell, Jeremy Darroch and I have chosen to donate 100 percent of our salaries to charities that support COVID-19 relief efforts," Roberts wrote.
Roberts' 2018 salary came to $3.2 million, while CFO Cavanagh's salary was $1.95 million that year and then-NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke took home a salary of $2.96 million in 2018. Comcast has yet to announce its executive compensation for 2019.
Roberts, his wife Aileen and their family previously said they were donating $5 million for the Philadelphia public school system to buy laptops for students doing online learning as local schools closed down during the coronavirus crisis.
Comcast is the latest media and entertainment company to unveil that top executives were forging their salaries amid the virus crisis, following the likes of the Walt Disney Co.
Read Comcast chairman and CEO Roberts' full memo to Comcast staff below:
As our world changes by the minute with the new reality that COVID-19 brings, I continue to be amazed and inspired by our people and the human spirit at Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky. This is obviously an incredibly difficult time for our society. None of us has ever experienced anything like this before, and while it is easy to get mired in the many challenges we are all facing, I think that in uncertain times like these it is incumbent upon us to remain optimistic and look for the good, even if it can be elusive.
One of the bright spots for me has been watching our employees on the frontlines go above and beyond. Our Comcast and Sky engineers, technicians and call center representatives are working around the clock to keep our network running and make sure our customers maintain their vital internet connectivity. Our NBC and Sky news organizations are keeping our world informed — setting up remote...