Comcast-owned US broadcaster NBCUniversal has announced a new direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming service to be launched in 2020, the latest addition to the increasingly crowded digital streaming space.
The new service will feature both ad-supported and ad-free subscription tiers. The ad-supported version will be available to NBCUniversal’s pay TV subscribers in the US and other major markets for free, as well as Comcast Cable and Sky subscribers. The ad free version will cost an additional fee, which hasn’t been specified.
Those not subscribed to any of these services will be able to pay for the as-yet-unnamed streaming service as a standalone product, presumably either a smaller amount for the ad-supported version or a higher amount for the ad-free version (though NBCU has not explicitly said this will be the case).
The content available will be a mix of TV shows and movies, including NBCUniversal originals and content from outside partners. The broadcaster said it isn’t planning to pull its content from competing streaming services, referencing its long-term strategy of distributing its content broadly. But rights for some NBCU originals will be retained exclusively for the new service.
To build the platform, the broadcaster is leaning on its Comcast connections, including newly-acquired Sky. The team leading the project, headed up by Bonnie Hammer, will include executives from Sky’s own streaming service NOW TV.
When the new product comes to market, it will be competing with a number of other new entrants. Just last week, Amazon launched a new ad-supported streaming service via its film ratings site IMDb, and major players Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia will release their own offerings later this year.
But NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke believes the reach of his company’s own product will help it succeed nonetheless. “Our new service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBCUniversal’s great content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said Burke. “People are watching premium content more than ever, but they want more flexibility and value. NBCUniversal is perfectly positioned to offer a variety of choices, due to our deep relationships with advertisers and distribution partners, as well as our data-targeting capabilities.”
And while ad-supported streaming has been slower to take off in Western markets than it has in the East, Burke says the model will prove popular so long as ad loads are handled sensibly. “Advertising continues to be a major part of the entertainment ecosystem and we believe that a streaming service, with limited and personalised ads, will provide a great consumer experience,” he said.
The announcement raises further questions over the future of Hulu, owned by a consortium of US media companies including NBCUniversal, which holds a 30 percent stake. Whether NBCUniversal will remain invested in Hulu while launching its own competing product remains to be seen.