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Report: Hulu Losing NBCU Shows to Peacock in Fall

Lauren Forristal

In recent years, Walt Disney and NBCUniversal went from streaming partners to direct competitors. Now, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal is finalizing a plan that would drastically change its partnership with Hulu, shifting its high-profile programming to Peacock. Starting this fall, new episodes of shows like “The Voice,” “Saturday Night Live” and “American Auto” will no longer be available on Hulu soon after they air, according to Wall Street Journal. This decision would be the latest indication of the changing relationship between Hulu’s co-owners.

NBCUniversal was originally scheduled to announce the move earlier this year, but the deadline was pushed back as the two sides continued to negotiate an exit strategy. If NBCU chose not to remove the shows, they would remain on Hulu through 2024. Some shows such as “30 Rock” and “Parenthood,” as well as some films, aren’t part of this specific content-sharing deal and are to remain on the service until the agreement they are included in is up for renewal.

While Peacock has struggled to establish itself in a crowded environment so expanding its subscriber base is one of Comcast’s top priorities, as the company is looking to become a streaming giant in its own right. Comcast, which owns a third of Hulu, launched Peacock less than two years ago, whereas Disney, which owns the rest of Hulu, introduced Disney+ in late 2019.

The dissipating relationship between Comcast and Disney would be another significant step toward the company’s ultimate exit from Hulu. Under the terms of the ownership agreement, Comcast can require Disney to buy it out of Hulu as early as 2024. However, a complicating factor has been that removing some NBC content could potentially lessen the value of NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu when it attempts to negotiate a valuation.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell foreshadowed the divorce on the company’s earnings call last month. “Obviously much of our strong NBC content…premieres on Hulu, and over time we’d like to bring that back to Peacock.”

The recent boom of streaming services—many of which are owned by companies that also produce content—has led to players readjusting their priorities. For instance, many media giants that were once happy to license their content to streaming platforms are now having to decide what to take back for themselves, sacrificing licensing revenue so they can attract more subscribers. Shortly after Peacock was announced to launch, Comcast said it would take away “The Office” from Netflix and offer it on its streaming service exclusively.

The two services have drastically varying levels of fortune. Disney on Wednesday said Disney+ had nearly 130 million subscribers globally, while NBCU last month said more than 9 million people were paying for Peacock, which is available free of charge to subscribers of Comcast and other cable providers. Peacock also offers a free ad-supported version for everyone, of which 7 million people last month were using the service at no additional charge.

Even taking into account nonpaying customers, Peacock’s subscriber base remains much smaller than that of its rivals. Disney+ reported having 129.8 million subscribers at the end of 2021. Hulu had 40.9 million subscribed to its on-demand service, excluding people who use Hulu Live TV.

In 2022, Comcast is doubling its content spending for Peacock to $3 billion, and the service is trying to establish itself as a destination for live sports. Peacock is betting that by broadcasting the Beijing Winter Olympics and Super Bowl LVI, it will attract more customers. It also offers access to high-profile events such as English Premier League soccer games and WWE programming.

Also, Comcast said it plans to step up its domestic content spending to $5 billion for Peacock over the next couple of years. This month, Peacock is to premiere “Bel-Air,” a dramatic reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” as well as “Marry Me,” a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez that will air on Peacock and in theaters on the same day.

Starting this year, NBCUniversal is also making most Universal movies available for streaming on Peacock as soon as 45 days after their theatrical release. The company is also considering making next-day airings of future NBC shows exclusively on Peacock’s premium tier.

During last month’s earnings call, Comcast Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts said, “We’ve accomplished all this despite our movies and NBC content still premiering on other streaming services through the end of 2021, including HBO and Hulu, and with the majority of our best content still to come.”

Peacock

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. Peacock is home to “Yellowstone,” and “The Office,” as well as original hits like “Bel-Air.”

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

Peacock also now includes the entire library of Bravo shows and has exclusives like “Below Deck: Down Under.”

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

You can also watch live sports including Sunday Night Football, Premier League, and exclusive MLB games.

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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