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Comcast CEO: Hulu Agreement Complicates Peacock Strategy

Michael King

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is incredibly bullish on Peacock and the streaming future for NBCUniversal films. Roberts shared his outlook on the company at today’s Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.

Unlike some streamers like Disney+ or HBO Max that jealously guard their films, NBCUniversal has a unique schedule that allows for Peacock exclusivity with a middle window where the films are sold to other services. “I give the team at Universal tremendous credit for reinventing what is Pay-One,” Roberts said. “Instead of an 18-month window, we broke it into 3 chunks: 4, 10, and 4. Peacock took the front and back end. And Amazon and Netflix, depending (on) which type of film, took the middle. And the net result was we took in more third-party dollars and have the most attractive front-end window for ourselves if we want. And that is a reinvention of a 20-year-plus tradition.”

Roberts explained that some of Peacock’s ambitions have been thwarted by preexisting rights issues. “We inherited a company a decade ago that had committed really all of its content to Hulu. And all that content still resides on Hulu,” Roberts said. “So the biggest and best, most relevant part of our content, at least from television… are all licensed away, and that can change over time. And of course, we own one-third of (Hulu)… So we’re looking at each successive decision as to how to invest in Peacock versus what I just said previously, continue to invest in other people’s platforms.”

“We announced during earnings that we had 20 million people using Peacock each month and had 54 million sign up in just a year,” Roberts said. “It’s the #2 new brand that was created during COVID after Zoom. So I give the team a lot of kudos for getting us well-positioned.”

Roberts said the company has $20 billion invested between NBCUniversal and Sky in terms of content — divided between sports, television, entertainment, and film.

“We do it for our own platform but we also do it on other people’s platforms,” he said. “Our goal is to monetize the best content to remain … the premier general entertainment and sports content creator and then find the best path to monetization as this (streaming) world continues to evolve. Today we reach 700 million people globally with all of our media properties and brands. I think that’s scale.”

While not discussing mergers and acquisitions around the world, Roberts spoke favorably about the SkyShowtime joint venture with ViacomCBS in Europe, revealing that the company is looking at other potential options.

“We’re looking at other partnerships like that around the world,” he said, without going into details regarding specifics.

“There’s been so much focus on Peacock and there should be, but we also have Sky NOW, Sky Ticket, a lot of different NBCU apps, sports, NBC Sports, Today Show, entertainment apps. We have Xumo, FandangoNow, Vudu, many others, that if you put those together, we’re a house of brands,” he said. “The collective reach is over 100 million active users every month to our streaming services, which, in the last 12 months, generated over $2 billion of revenue. So we have a lot of streaming momentum, a lot of great assets, and we also like to work with third parties. So yes, I think we’re — NBCUniversal is extremely well-positioned.”

“The company is doing extremely well. Residential broadband, business services, mobile, studios, parks, Peacock, the UK, they all have a tailwind,” Roberts said. “We can stream better and aggregate better than anyone else … I feel great about where the company is at and in our future.”

Roberts’ comments came just as Comcast announced a new 4K streaming device — the XiOne — that it is launching in the U.S., and together with Sky in Europe. The XiOne is now available for Sky Q customers in Italy and Germany. The company says it is now ready to begin its rollout to Xfinity Flex customers in the U.S.


Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 15,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series.

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Just like other streaming services, Peacock will have their own original series including reboots of Save By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They also have shows like Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms), Dr. Death (Alec Baldwin), and a behind-the-scenes docs-series about Saturday Night Live.

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like the entire Dick Wolf library including Law & Order and Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

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