Deeper Dive—Almost seven months later and still no Peacock on Fire TV

The Office
Peacock has placed at least part of the paywall in front of many of its most popular shows including “The Office” and "Modern Family." (NBCUniversal)

HBO Max and Roku took nearly seven months to work out a distribution deal. Now Peacock and Amazon are close to extending their standoff beyond that point.

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new ad-supported/subscription streaming service, launched for Comcast subscribers in April 2020 before going national on July 15. Peacock made its big debut without support from Amazon Fire TV or Roku – two of the biggest connected TV platforms – but settled its differences with Roku by September.

Workarounds exist for Fire TV users to watch Peacock on their devices but a native app is still nowhere in sight.

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According to Vox, Amazon and NBCUniversal are at odds over who controls direct relationships with users and the valuable data they generate on the platform.

Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, said it could be about splitting advertising revenue, not having Peacock in the Prime Video Channels store, or both.

He said Channels is far worse for apps than Roku because the integration happens on the top-level interface, as opposed to on Roku where it’s in the Roku Channel interface.

“Roku’s top-level interface is just apps, while Amazon’s has tiles for shows,” said Wolk in an email.

As of December, Amazon Fire TV reaches 50 million monthly active users so Peacock would almost certainly like to have its app on the platform. But judging from comments Comcast made late last week during its fourth-quarter earnings call, it’s unclear how much the Fire TV standoff has held back Peacock thus far.

In 2020, Peacock generated more than $100 million in revenue and recorded EBITDA losses of approximately $700 million – Comcast expects Peacock to lose about $2 billion in 2020 and 2021 combined. Many streaming services lose money early on – Disney+ doesn’t expect to make a profit until 2024 – and Comcast seems encouraged by the 33 million sign-ups Peacock has already amassed.

NBCU still doesn’t break out how many of those sign-ups are paying for Peacock Premium at $4.99 per month (or $9.99 per month with no ads) but the company has said that the service is still primarily advertising based.

“…We're very confident, based on the small amount of time, that the business model is exactly the right business model. People are signing up. They're using it more than we expected. And advertisers are very interested in buying it. So, this steady growth is very promising for us,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

NBCUniversal hasn’t thrown a Hail Mary like AT&T with HBO Max and Warner Bros. but it has taken steps to make its premium tier more attractive to potential customers so it can haul in more subscription revenue to go with the ad dollars. Peacock has placed at least part of the paywall in front of many of its most popular shows including “The Office” and "Modern Family," and it set a recent deal with WWE Network to bring pro wrestling content including major pay-per-views like Wrestlemania to Peacock Premium.

As Peacock continues to accumulate high-profile programming, it may be harder for either side to hold off on a distribution deal. But for now, Amazon and Peacock remain the last holdouts from big streaming battles of 2020.