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NBCU to launch ad-supported streaming service in early 2020


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NBCU to launch ad-supported streaming service in early 2020

NBCUniversal Media LLC will enter the direct-to-consumer streaming arena early in 2020 with a hybrid, ad-supported offering, the company announced Jan. 14.

The service will draw from NBCU’s content libraries, including original and licensed fare. About 52 million Comcast Cable customers in the U.S. and Sky PLC customers abroad will be able to access the yet-to-be-named service at no cost, while an ad-free version will be available for a fee.

The programmer is reaching beyond its subscriber base, offering the service to nonpay TV customers for a fee.

Comcast Corp.'s programming arm has named veteran Bonnie Hammer, who has been serving as chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, to lead the streaming entry as chairman, direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises for NBCU.

Hammer will build a team that will include executives from Sky's over-the-top offering, NOW TV, and throughout NBCU. The Digital Enterprises group, led by Maggie Suniewick, will move into Hammer's consolidated digital group.

The upcoming debut will follow major streaming launches from Walt Disney Co. and AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia in the fourth quarter. Apple Inc. is also expected to launch a streaming service this year.

Speaking at an investor conference early last December, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh said the company does not have plans to emulate Netflix Inc. Rather, the company would look to something that "takes advantage of all that we're good at. We think it's an interesting and dynamic ecosystem that we're intending to participate in a bunch of different ways. Our own DTC will just be one avenue.”

NBCU President and CEO Steve Burke, in a memo to staffers in mid-December, hinted at plans to launch an OTT service.

In announcing the DTC service plans Jan. 14, NBCU said it will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service. AT&T's WarnerMedia offering will follow a similar approach, while Disney+ is going to pull assets back in house as it builds out its product.

NBCU has delved into streaming with its 30% ownership stake with Hulu LLC. However, when Disney closes its deal for myriad 21st Century Fox Inc. assets, it will consolidate 60% of Hulu's business. AT&T is looking to sell WarnerMedia's 10% holding in Hulu.

Elsewhere on the streaming side, NBCU shuttered its subscription comedy service Seeso in 2017 after one year, while NBC Sports Gold offers an array of subscription-based service tied to media rights it holds. For example, while NBC and national cable service NBCSN (US) show Premier League soccer and PGA Tour golf action, fans can access more content via dedicated subscription packages.

With Hammer heading the DTC operation, NBCU has also made some operating changes in its executive chamber. NBC Broadcasting and Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus will add cable and news to his purview, giving him responsibility for all East Coast-based content businesses, including the cable entertainment portfolio, NBC News, MSNBC (US) and CNBC (US).

Jeff Shell, meanwhile, will take over NBC Entertainment, Telemundo (US) and the broadcaster's international operations while continuing to oversee the film division.

For her part, Donna Langley is now the sole chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, adding theatrical and home entertainment oversight.