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NBCU expects more legacy distributors to bundle Peacock streaming service

With Cox Communications Inc. already on board, NBCUniversal Media LLC is confident it will reach deals with other distributors to bundle Peacock, its ad-supported, video-on-demand streaming service.

While the Peacock Premium version of the tiered service will bow April 15 to parent Comcast Corp.'s video and internet-only customers, Cox will begin offering it on July 15. That is when Peacock, including the free and ad-free versions, becomes available nationally.

Executives spotlighted the service at the Jan. 16 investor day and indicated that NBCU is working toward deals with other providers so they can bundle the service and bolster Peacock's reach in the process.

The premium ad-supported service will be free to some 24 million Comcast and Cox subscribers but will cost $4.99 per month for everyone else. Customers of the two cable operators can upgrade to an ad-free version for $5.00, while non-Comcast and Cox subscribers would pay $9.99 for the same ad-free service.

SNL Image

NBCUniversal Media Chairman Steve Burke speaking about
streaming service Peacock
at a Jan. 16, 2020, event.

Source: NBCUniversal

Asked whether Peacock represented a shift away from a strategy of bolstering the pay TV ecosystem, NBCU Chairman Steve Burke said the company's motivation for Peacock was to better capitalize on the growing popularity of streaming TV.

"It does help a company like Comcast; it helps a company like Cox. It will eventually help companies like Charter [Communications Inc.] with the pay ecosystem to have Peacock bundled with their product, but that's sort of an ancillary benefit," Burke said.

"I would anticipate the vast majority of people will carry it, and in certain circumstances, they'll be able to offer it to their broadband customers as well," he said.

Burke said NBCU has many content carriage deals coming up for renewal with cable operators next year. "I have a feeling we're going to get a broad distribution," he said.

The goal is to broadly extend Peacock's reach as a free service for consumers. "The way to do that is to find really good marketing partners who are interested in delivering value to their customers," Burke said. If that does not occur within the traditional pay TV ecosystem, the executive pointed to The Walt Disney Co.'s promotional pact to offer its streaming entry Disney+ free to a number of Verizon Communications Inc. subscribers for a year as another potential model.

Matthew Strauss, chairman of Peacock & NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said Peacock's ad load is only five minutes per hour, and the programmer is not looking to engage in a revenue share on that front. He said the value is tied to Comcast investing a cumulative $2 billion of EBITDA for programming, marketing and infrastructure support during 2020 and 2021 to fuel the service's content offerings. In the case of multichannel video programming distributors, they can bundle Peacock for free while other platforms will be able to market it as part of their service, he said.

"We want to make sure that we're mutually incented to want to make Peacock a success," Strauss said.

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, said inaugural launch partners Unilever, State Farm, Eli Lilly, apartments.com and Target have committed hundreds of millions to advertise on the platform long-term and other clients will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Peacock Premium will feature 15,000 hours of content, comprising 600 movies and 400 TV series. The free offering will provide users with more than 7,500 hours of programming, including next-day access to current seasons of freshman broadcast shows, complete classic series, popular movies, curated daily news and sports programming including the Olympics, Spanish-language content, select episodes of marquee Peacock originals and tentpole series, as well as curated Peacock streaming genre channels.

The company expects Peacock to count 35 million active domestic accounts, generate $2.5 billion in revenues, largely from the advertising side, and to break even by 2024.