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Spectrum’s Elena Ritchie Discusses “The Future of Streaming” in TechCrunch Webinar

The Streaming Landscape

Elena leads a team that is responsible for video product development, design and programming operations. Clearly, she spends a lot of her time thinking about video and streaming content.

When asked what excites her the most about the streaming world today, Elena replied, “At this moment, I’m particularly excited about the evolution of Spectrum TV. We have a new device in market. We are evolving our relationships and our partnerships with content providers, and we’re delivering a lot of new value to customers.”

She is also aware that in addition to the innovation and excitement happening within the streaming industry, it is in a fragmented state.

“I am sure everyone has had the experience of trying to find what you were just watching, what you want to watch right now and what you want to watch next. It’s not easy. It used to be easy to watch television,” said Elena. “But with the proliferation of services, you’re getting different video, different UI, different price points. Accessing the show you want to watch across that ecosystem is not easy. There is tons of fragmentation, which is tough for customers, but for us it’s a juicy customer problem to solve and we’re uniquely positioned to do so.”

That’s where Xumo comes in.

Xumo and Its Role in Solving for Content Fragmentation

The Xumo Stream Box, developed as part of a joint venture with Comcast announced in 2022, was released in October 2023 to Spectrum customers.

As a next generation entertainment experience, it integrates live TV and all the top streaming apps, delivering everything customers want in one place.

Elena addressed possible hesitations customers may have regarding a streaming device.

“What the Xumo Stream Device does is anchor your experience in traditional live TV from the instant you turn it on,” explained Elena. “So, it’s that ease, that comfort, that simplicity of traditional TV, but also surrounded by the power and completion of all the content you could possibly need.”

Xumo’s live tile home screen is rich with opportunity and possibility, from personalization to real-time content curation across more than 250 streaming apps, but if you know what you want to watch, you can take advantage of a powerful short cut, which is “voice search.” Xumo voice search is powered by Emmy award-winning technology that is a true differentiator. It’s great for multilingual and multigenerational families while also serving as an accessibility feature, for instance, for low vison customers.

Some of Elena’s favorite Xumo features are its simplicity and the activation process.

“I tend to watch TV when tired, so powering on to the live tile home screen is like instant gratification. I’m instantly entertained and relaxing. The fact that that audio is persistent and stays with me as I’m navigating and searching is really helpful,” Elena stated. “We also spent a lot of time refining the activation process to make it as simple as possible. So, it’s just power on and go.”

Another realm experiencing fragmentation is sports. According to Elena, live sports is getting harder and hard to watch.

“There are football games that are exclusive to streaming services. It feels like you need an advanced degree to watch soccer. It’s not easy and it’s only getting more complex with regional rights. So again, voice search lets you just search for your team or search for a game, and you don’t have to have an MBA to try to figure out who’s got rights for what.”

A Product Launch Unlike Any Other

Xumo’s launch was different from any other product launch in Spectrum’s history.

When the development of Xumo started in 2022 with Comcast, it was understood that Spectrum was going to launch to Spectrum TV customers first.

“We had this hypothesis that anchoring around live TV with a powerful voice remote was the key to simplification and bringing delight back to television. In addition to those ideas and that vision, Spectrum is a data driven company. We wanted to collect as much data as possible to refine and confirm our hypothesis. So, we did three things.

“The first is we conducted the largest ever employee field trial in Spectrum’s history. One of our greatest assets as a company is that we have more than 100,000 employees who offer a tremendous range of expertise and a great variety of customer touchpoints and customer knowledge. We went to 20,000 employees, offered them the device, and then let the feedback roll in. They were not shy. We heard everything that you can possibly imagine.

“The second is that we did a product suitability trial. We went to customers who were not expecting this device and who had absolutely no background or understanding of Xumo. We then followed their experience both with instrumented device data as well their feedback.

“And then the third thing we did, which was really life changing for me, is that we went on tour. We trained 16 Xumo ambassadors who went across our footprint to 80 different locations. They became embedded with our employee base to really understand their hopes, dreams, problems, and the things that customers talk to them about every day. They also started to get their own hands on the device.

“When we ultimately launched the Xumo Stream Box, it really felt like the whole company was excited about Xumo.”

How the 2023 Disney Agreement Benefitted Customers

In the second half of 2023, Spectrum reached a transformative agreement with Disney.

Elena delved into the Disney agreement and how it allowed customers who receive Disney’s linear networks to also receive the ad supported versions of their direct-to-consumer apps for free.

“This is a great value for customers. It was also a cool integration with a new partner in a new construct to get customers easy access to all that content without paying any more. It’s really exciting. ESPN+ is up next. And then we’ve also reached agreement with ViX, Univision’s service, which will also be available at no extra charge to Spectrum TV customers.”

The Spectrum TV App Continues to Grow in Popularity

Another way customers can experience benefits with Spectrum is through our Spectrum TV App, which was built entirely in-house with universal design in mind.

Elena elaborated on why she is such a big fan of the app.

“We are very proud of the Spectrum TV App. It is an independent app that can be found on other third-party devices, most of which might already be in your home. The other thing I’m really proud of with the Spectrum TV App, is that it is instrumented within an inch of its life. Nothing happens on it that couldn’t set off an alarm if something occurred that is not expected. So, our quality expectation is that it has to work every time. It must be bulletproof if it’s going to replace the traditional cable video experience.”

As of January 2024, the Spectrum TV App has held the position as most-viewed app in the U.S. on an hours per household basis for the last 30 months, as rated by Comscore. Also, as of January 2024, the Spectrum TV App is the highest-rated Pay TV streaming app in the U.S. – going on 19 consecutive months. That’s more stars than YouTube TV, Hulu live TV, etc. and STVA has its own independent roadmap to continually improve the experience.

Another interesting thing to note is that the centerpiece of the Xumo experience is the Spectrum TV App. Upon launching Xumo, Spectrum customers see live video playing from the Spectrum TV App.

The Breadth and Depth of Opportunity at Spectrum

When discussing the topics covered throughout the webinar, it’s obvious there are a lot of different technologies at work.

Elena emphatically agrees with this notion.

“I’ve mentioned the breadth of roles and customer touchpoints and sheer size of Spectrum as a company, and the same could be said for cool technologies that we work on and with. In addition to the user interface and systems driving video experience, there are product quality and resilience technologies at work across broadband and mobile. And then there are customer self-service platforms, tools for agents, and tools for technicians to use in the field. Not to mention network engineering, billing and IT.”

It’s important to also consider the resilience of Spectrum’s network. For the Spectrum TV App, Xumo and streaming apps to work, customers need reliable internet.

Elena commented that even if we build the most perfect video streaming experience on the planet, but customers’ WiFi is glitchy, zero value is being delivered to customers. To ensure that doesn’t happen, Spectrum is constantly expanding and evolving its network.

Anything You Want to Do in Tech, You Can Do at Spectrum

Elena joined Spectrum six years ago because she realized the real impact her work could have on the customer experience and satisfaction in a direct, data-driven way. She was also impressed by the sheer volume of customer touchpoint possibilities.

“We talked about the Xumo launch and how we went on tour. On the tour, I had the opportunity to partake in ride-alongs with a technician who was going to homes in Louisville. Just the sheer number of products, services, and opportunities to improve lives, to simplify experience, to drive opportunity for these customers is so exciting, as well as the technology dimensions that are part of that toolset.”

Beyond the technology, Elena cites the people she works with and the culture that has been created by Spectrum’s leadership as the things she enjoys most about working for the company.

“I love the team and the people I work with. It is an execution, engineering, and output focused culture. Everybody just wants to do the right thing for customers and that is a tremendous gift. Being able to work with people who have that top of mind and who work from data, is really exciting. There are so many smart people doing great work,” said Elena. “I also think it’s an inclusive culture that wants people to do the best work of their lives and is going to make sure that they are comfortable and happy and come to work as themselves. I think initiatives like inclusive design and expanding our network to underserved and unserved communities give us really good reasons to come to work every day and be excited about the work and the customer value that we deliver.”

To learn more about Spectrum and explore open roles, please visit

This is an article that was posted on TechCrunch. Read the original article here.

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