With more new streaming services to keep track of in the past few years than Ryan Murphy Netflix shows, you’d be forgiven for assuming cable was on the way out, but this time last year, 77.6 million U.S. households still subscribed to cable, satellite, or telecom TV. Those numbers are dropping fast, however, and the choice pay TV companies face is existential: Adapt or become an American horror story.
Comcast’s answer to this problem is … a new streaming box! Today the company rolled out an announcement for a new device with a funny name, XiOne — intended to be pronounced “more like an acronym, so the letter X, the letter I, and then the number one. So “X – i – 1,” according to the patient Comcast spokesperson I asked to explain this after it confused me and my fellow Vulture colleagues. It looks, well, a lot like other set-top box devices on the market right now, but the good news is that it’ll be offered free to Comcast’s customers; they just have to sign up for one of the subscription tiers. The box is already available for Sky Q customers in Germany and Italy and will soon roll out initially to customers on the Xfinity Flex plan, the company’s Internet-only package. Comcast said it planned to eventually make it available to Xfinity X1 U.S. subscribers, but did not give a timeline on that.
Details in today’s release are sparse, but judging by the photos released, the size of the gadget and the remote functionality look comparable to what users of Apple TVs and Roku Ultras might already be familiar with. The U.S. and European models also differ a bit but run on the same software. The Sky Q model has that company’s logo, but is also a bit boxy, whereas the U.S. model is rounded-off and looks a lot like one of my hard drives.
The XiOne will ship with a voice remote and will support the WiFi 6 standard, 4K UHD, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. Comcast also confirmed to Vulture that it would run on the company’s Flex OS, pack 4GB of RAM under the hood (the latest Apple TV 4K has 3GB), and include access to 250 streaming apps and services, including major ones like Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and Hulu. Peacock Premium is on it, of course, because that subscription comes bundled for Flex users already.