Xperi, Samsung, LG Expanding Reach In Hot TV OS Battleground

The Streaming Wars v. 2.0 are escalating, as more companies focus not just on which services are debuting hot shows and attracting viewers, but which platforms for distributing those apps and raking in ad dollars are gaining traction with TV makers around the globe.

On Monday, the giant TV maker Samsung said it had licensed its home-grown Tizen operating system to competing TV makers for sets sold in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. The Linux-based operating system will now appear on systems developed by Atamaca (its brands include Sunny and Axen), HKC (RCA and Vispera), and Tempo (Akai, Bauhn, and Linsar), the company said in a news release.

Samsung was the world’s biggest TV seller last year, comprising roughly 20% of sets sold worldwide last year, according to research consultancy Omdia. In turn, that gave Tizen a substantial market share in deciding what streaming apps are available through its platforms and how they can better reach their customers there.

The move to license Tizen to competing hardware makers suggests where the real value is emerging in streaming, however. As Roku demonstrated last year with tough negotiations with Peacock and HBO Max, the platforms are now gatekeepers, much like cable providers were over the previous few decades.

Their platforms manage a connected- TV experience, and can make money in a variety of ways, through ad-revenue shares, sponsorships, data collection, and other opportunities with far higher margins (and ongoing revenue opportunities) than hardware sales can provide.

Through Tizen, TV customers will be able to access Samsung’s free, ad-supported collection of dozens of linear channels on Samsung TV Plus, its Universal Guide search functions, and the voice-controlled Bixby virtual assistant.

The announcement comes a few days after Samsung’s archrival, fellow Korean corporate giant LG, said it would expand and upgrade third-party licensing of its webOS operating system to more than 200 makers of various Internet-connected devices. The LG program launched with a handful of partners last year.

Also last week, Xperi
Inc. debuted on the New York Stock Exchange after spinning off a patent-licensing division focused on entertainment and semiconductors. Xperi Inc. will focus on expanding its reach in the Connected TV space, leveraging tech from its Tivo, HD Radio, DTS, and IMAX Enhanced units, and recent middleware acquisition Vewd.

In August, Xperi announced a deal with Vestel, the Turkish TV maker behind brands such as JVC, Panasonic and JVC, to put the Tivo-branded operating system on its new TV sets.

Xperi CEO Jon Kirchner said in an interview that he expected to announce an additional licensing partner soon, with more to come next year. The company is focusing its efforts beyond the saturated North American market, looking to Europe, Asia and Latin America where markets aren’t as built out and opportunities beckon.

“When we look across the globe, there’s a lot more volume to work with, a lot more people,” Kirchner said. “So if we can build the same monetization engine, use the data and analytics, and drive our monetization revenue ever higher, that’s the upside really in doing this.”

Tivo was the original time-shifting device in television, allowing people to easily schedule and record shows they wanted to watch. That era has long passed, and Tivo has evolved considerably. Xperi now has the Tivo operating system for connected TVs and devices, the TiVo+ streaming service with 160 free, ad-supported channels, and the TiVo Stream 4K dongle, a far different and smaller streaming device compared to the original Tivo set-top box.

Tivo+ already reaches 30 million households, Kirchner said. The new licensing effort will help expand that footprint even more by becoming the operating system for many smaller TV makers around the globe.

“We will begin monetizing that so that our business looks a lot more like Roku and will be one of the players in the broader TV OS space, really targeting Tier Two TV makers, who don’t have the resources to build their own full-blown services and their own ad stack and all the rest,” Kirchner said.

Samsung, LG, and Xperi face plenty of competition from some very large players: Roku, the Google TV/Android TV platforms, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV. Roku and Amazon Fire each claim big shares of the U.S. market, while Alphabet’s pair of TV OSes have been claiming significant progress in building market share internationally.

TV operating systems are complex beasts, required to efficiently shuttle viewers between thousands of niche ad-supported networks and linear channels, subscription video-on-demand giants, traditional and virtual Pay TV services, transactional VOD sales and rentals, and much else.

“That’s one of the things that makes it hard to build a business of scale in this space,” Kirchner said.

Driving all the interest in owning the platform is the expected shift in tens of billions of dollars of advertising from traditional broadcast and cable outlets to connected TVs. That shift has accelerated since the pandemic hit, and is expected to continue at a high level for some time to come.

“We believe you’re gonna see a massive amount, billions of dollars, of advertising shift out of linear TV over time as those viewing trends continue,” Kirchner said. Owning “footprint, ad inventory on these TVs, or apps, or you own the OS where you own all the ad inventory is vital if you want to capture the shifting dollars.”

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