NBCUniversal is gearing up to launch its own standalone streaming service in 2020, and one of the biggest questions is whether NBC originals, like The Office and 30 Rock, will leave Netflix and Hulu when that happens.
According to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, it’s not likely. Roberts, joined by NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, addressed questions about content on the streaming service during its quarterly investors meeting. While shows owned by NBCUniversal, which include The Office, 30 Rock, and Saturday Night Live, will live on the streaming service, they probably won’t be exclusive offers at first. Instead, Roberts and Burke cited licensing series to other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as a continued business strategy. That means users don’t have to worry about losing their favorite shows on streaming services they already use.
“We will continue to sell on other platforms depending on the show, depending on the prices,” Burke said, adding that shows will be evaluated on an instance-by-instance basis once contracts are up.
NBCUniversal’s streaming service is shaping up to look more like CBS All Access, which carries a plethora of old and current CBS series with limited original content, than Netflix and Hulu, which are investing heavily in original content. Roberts specifically told investors the streaming service “will be distinct and compelling, offering current and prior seasons, library and some original content with a light advertising load all for free to pay TV customers.”
It makes sense for NBC. The network has a long list of popular series that it can entice people with, continuing to earn revenue by licensing some of its most notable shows. It’s exactly what AT&T and WarnerMedia are currently doing with shows like Friends, which is technically an NBC series, but whose digital distribution rights belong to Warner Bros. When WarnerMedia’s streaming service launches, Friends will still be available on Netflix — a $100 million deal that AT&T and WarnerMedia weren’t going to miss.
NBCUniversal and Comcast are going the same route. The idea isn’t to pluck all of its content and keep it on one streaming service to lean into exclusivity offers, like what Disney is currently gearing up to do with its standalone streaming service, Disney+.
“Our approach to monetizing content will remain balanced,” Roberts said, calling NBCUniversal’s streaming service a “valuable addition” to the streaming ecosystem.
NBCUniversal’s streaming service is set to launch in 2020. It will be free for all NBC television subscribers, and it will cost $12.99 for cord cutters.
Disclosure: Comcast Ventures and NBCUniversal are investors in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.