Comcast’s NBCUniversal unveiled a new streaming service that will be free to many customers, separating itself from a pack of Hollywood giants looking to persuade people to pay for online television.
In a presentation on Thursday, NBCU executives made their pitch for Peacock, the last major streaming debut in a flurry of product launches as media groups look to fight back against Netflix.
But while Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia have tackled Netflix head-on through paid streaming, NBCU is taking a different tack. Comcast, the dominant US cable provider, is offering Peacock to its traditional television customers for free.
Those who are not Comcast or Cox cable customers can also use a free, more limited version of Peacock with about half the content — or pay $5 a month for the full product. For $10 a month, people can watch Peacock without advertisements.
Speaking from Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8H at the 30 Rock building in Manhattan, NBCUniversal chairman Steve Burke predicted there will be demand from more price-conscious consumers for a free streaming service amid the pack of competition.
“We like the idea of zigging when others zag,” he said, noting that the majority of streaming viewership happens on free, ad-supported platforms like YouTube.
The traditional television business has stalled, spurring media companies to re-evaluate their strategies. Comcast is the fourth major company in the past year to host a glitzy presentation for investors for an online video streaming service. Apple, Disney and WarnerMedia have all unveiled streaming services to rival Netflix costing between $5 and $15 a month.
Amid all these offerings, analysts expect that consumers will ultimately buy between three and five subscriptions.
But while other services aim to imitate Netflix — spending billions of dollars to produce original, exclusive shows that people will pay to stream on-demand — NBCUniversal’s service resembles elements of traditional television. There will be live sports and news, such as access to a few Olympics shows a day, as well as a large catalogue of older sitcoms, and the service will primarily rely on advertising.
Peacock also caters to passive television watching: the service will include “streaming channels”, which will function as 24/7 playlists of news or Saturday Night Live skits, to help viewers avoid searching through a platform for something to watch.
Late night talk shows hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers will air on Peacock a few hours before they do on conventional television.
“In some ways, we are creating the equivalent of the 21st century broadcast TV business, over the internet,” Mr Burke said.
Peacock launches widely on July 15.