Confirming leaked reports, Comcast officially announced Tuesday the introduction of its private-label 4K UHD XClass TVs, manufactured by Hisense and sold through Walmart Stores and nationwide.

The giant cable TV multi-system operator is integrating the XClass TVs with its X1 broadband/conditional access technology as well as its Flex streaming app platform providing access to hundreds of popular streaming apps and services.

The company is also cross-promoting is own premium streaming app Peacock with the devices by bundling 12 months of paid Peacock Premium service for the device purchase price.

Comcast said it is launching the Hisense-branded hardware offering behind a pair of XClass TV models — 43-inch ($298 suggested retail price) and 50-inch ($378 MSRP) 4K Ultra HD models — in markets across the United States — “extending the reach of the company’s global technology platform to smart TVs nationwide.”

Both models support 4K UHD resolution, HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), Full Array with Local Dimming LED-LCD backlighting, 3 HDMI ports including one HDMI-ARC/eARC port, DTS Virtual:X surround sound, and Dolby Atmos pass-through support from available content.

Offering products tied in some fashion to services offered by a cable operator outside of its traditional territories is an unusual move. Cable MSOs have typically sold (or more typically leased) only cable or streaming boxes and have stayed within pre-established markets determined by physical cable deployments, limiting competition between rival cable operations.

“For the first time, Comcast’s award-winning entertainment and voice platform is available direct to consumers across the U.S., without an Xfinity subscription, both inside and outside of Comcast’s service areas,” the announcement confirmed.

Comcast is betting that the size of an investment in a television, which is typically kept for a long period of time, will help to make cable, broadband and/or Peacock subscribers stickier at a time of rampant cord cutting. It also gives the cable operator a product to go up against competitors like Roku (Roku TVs) and Google (Android TV and Google TV).

Marketed in a sort of Trojan Horse fashion, the XClass TVs are designed to be affordable and innovative smart TV options and will feature an enticing integrated user interface leveraged by an included Comcast voice remote. This will enable spoken request access to live and on-demand streaming content through selected streaming apps and services.

Comcast said it is using Hisense as its OEM and brand partner for the XClass TV models, “combining Hisense’s advanced television hardware with Comcast’s XClass TV operating system.” The XClass televisions carry the Hisense brand while the XClass OS dominates the home screen user interface.

Comcast said the first XClass TVs will be available starting this week in select Walmart stores and in the coming weeks through

Comcast said the XClass TVs are based on the same global smart TV technology platform that powers the company’s entertainment and connectivity products and services. This includes Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms in the United States and Sky Glass and Sky Q in the U.K. Sky is expected to open distribution of the integrated sets to neighboring European markets in 2022.

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“The platform’s technology uniquely integrates streaming, on demand, broadcast, and cable options in one place under unified voice search, discovery, apps and interactive features,” the announcement stated. “It offers customers intuitive navigation across thousands of apps, movies, shows and sports with a simple voice command or remote click.”

“The launch follows Comcast’s recent introductions of Sky Glass, a new streaming TV now available in the UK, and XiOne, a new global streaming box, which are all built on Comcast’s global technology platform. Comcast’s platform delivers nearly five billion entertainment streams per week to customers across Comcast, Sky and its syndication partners and powers more than 75 million Comcast entertainment and connectivity devices today,” the announcement said.

Sam Schwartz, Comcast’s Chief Business Development Officer, stated: “Hisense XClass TVs are the next products in a growing portfolio built on our flexible and scalable technology platform, bringing the best innovative products – whether that’s a streaming box or a smart TV – to each territory and customer segment.”

“As a rapidly growing brand in the U.S., Hisense is committed not only to quality products but also to providing an array of options for our customers,” said David Gold, Hisense USA president. “We’re excited to partner with Comcast to bring the first XClass TVs to market in the U.S.”

Comcast said XClass televisions will include “more features and value than other smart TVs in this price category.”

In addition to a voice remote running Comcast AI voice technology, XClass TVs support will support high dynamic range using the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR profiles.

For sound, Hisense XClass TVs also pass-through of Dolby Atmos from compatible content sources when the TV is connected to a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar or home theater system.

Key features of the XClass TV operating system include are designed around providing simple and convenient content search and navigation, the company said.

Other features include the following:

• The ability to create a personalized playlist with the My List feature, that enables saving and quickly accessing shows or movies from across apps and services from the homescreen.
• Access to recently viewed apps, services, content, HDMI inputs, and over-the-air channels on the first row of the home screen to get viewer back to programs faster.
• A curated interface that combines automated suggestions with editorial recommendations of programs available across streaming apps and services.
• Universal voice search to help viewers quickly discover content with spoken commands, working in and out of apps at any point in the experience.
• Comcast’s global voice platform supports more than 40 million commands daily in five different languages across North America and Europe.
• Hundreds of streaming apps and services, including Peacock, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and more.
• 12 months of free Peacock Premium (a $50 value) including access to Peacock original programs.
• Immediate access to tens of thousands of free movies and TV shows from other ad-supported services including XUMO, Pluto, Tubi and IMDb TV.
• In the coming months, streaming apps from Xfinity and Charter will launch on XClass TV, joining the multichannel streaming services already available on the platform including Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV and Sling TV, giving consumers more options to stream live sports, shows and news directly on the TV.

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By Greg Tarr

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