NBCUniversal is following Disney and WarnerMedia into the streaming video space—albeit with a different business model—but it doesn’t seem overly concerned by the competition.
NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said during today's earnings call that his company believes the streaming video services market is still in the very early innings, and that in some ways it’s reminiscent of cable in the 1980s.
“We think there will be a lot of entrants, and a lot of companies will enter with their own unique strengths, leveraging their own unique assets,” Burke said.
“Our approach is to take thousands of hours of great programming, and make it free to the vast majority of people who live in the United States and the U.K. eventually. We think that’s a way to get real scale quickly and we think that’s a way to achieve profitability more quickly than we would otherwise.”
NBCUniversal parent Comcast intends to use Sky’s existing streaming tech for Now TV as the basis of its upcoming direct-to-consumer service. The company now has two of the most senior members of Sky’s Now TV executive team living the United States and to work on the launch. Comcast also has hundreds of other people working on rights, technology and other aspects associated with the launch.
“In about a year we plan to enter in this unique way. We see a lot of people entering and we think there is plenty of room for multiple companies and different strategies to make money,” Burke said.
Comcast declined to answer questions about spending around its streaming video service and how that service could impact licensing revenues moving forward. When the company earlier this year announced plans for an ad-supported streaming service launch in 2020, it said it would continue licensing its content to other studios and platforms, but it plans to retain some of its TV shows and films for the platform.
However, a new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that ahead of the service launch, NBCUniversal has begun internal discussions about removing “The Office” from Netflix after the current distribution deal ends in 2021. According to the report, “The Office” far and away leads all other titles in terms of share of minutes watched on Netflix.
Having a popular service like “The Office” would clearly be a boon for NBCUniversal’s streaming service, but it’s still unclear how the benefits would balance out with potential lost licensing revenue from Netflix.
Netflix last year shelled out a reported $100 million to WarnerMedia to keep “Friends,” which the report said it the second most popular title on Netflix, on the platform through 2019.