Vizio to license SmartCast TV OS to third-party brands

Mike Wheatley

Vizio is following in the footsteps of TV brands such as LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics with plans to license its own TV operating system, known as SmartCast, to other TV manufacturers.


The company’s chief executive officer William Wang confirmed the initiative in a financial earnings call last week, saying that it has already begun exploring partnerships with TV OEMs that are looking for alternative choices. “Our deep expertise with integrated hardware and software provides a distinct potential for mutually beneficial outcomes for Vizio and future partners,” he said.

Wang admitted that the plans are still at an early stage, but said he was “very optimistic” about its prospects.

Vizio’s move comes in the wake of similar initiatives pursued by LG and Samsung, which have licensed their respective webOS and Tizen operating systems to other TV makers. LG has enjoyed considerable success with its efforts, and claims to have licensed webOS to more than 200, mostly smaller TV brands.

Samsung’s efforts haven’t borne the same fruit, as of yet. Last year it said three TV brands had licensed Tizen, but it hasn’t provided any updates since.

Meanwhile, companies such as Amazon and Roku have gone in the opposite direction, offering their TV operating system software to third-parties first of all, before more recently announcing their own, branded TVs.

Another rival in the space is Google, which offers Android and the Google TV operating system and has been extremely successful, with its software appearing on thousands of TVs over the years. Google sells its own streaming stick hardware in Chromecast, but has not yet launched its own, branded TV. It has, however, claimed some very notable customers, with Sony, Philips and TCL all offering models with Google TV.

So Vizio is entering an extremely competitive marketplace, but it sees the move as an opportunity to scale its advertising business, which is another trend for TV software platforms. Increasingly, TV operating systems have been introducing more ads to their home screens to generate ongoing revenue.

The company didn’t say if it intends to charge a licensing fee for TV manufacturers to use the SmartCast software. But Wang told analysts on a conference call that “the more we can expand our platform into the market, the more we can scale our advertising business, the more viewership we can take advantage of.”

As such, it may make more sense for Vizio to offer SmartCast free to other brands, in order to gain as large a market share as possible. Perhaps soon, we’ll learn more about the company’s plans.

What is clear is that SmartCast is growing, and can expect to grow much more rapidly if its plan succeeds. The company said it now has more than 17.9 million active SmartCast accounts, having added more than 1.3 million in the preceding 12 months. It also reported a 21% increase in hours streamed, to 5.15 billion hours, compared to a year earlier. That happened even as the company’s smart TV shipments declined by 8% from a year ago to just 1.1 million.