Is NBCU TV Group's Peacock Boost a Bad Sign for Linear/Broadcast?
As "The Great Streaming Wars of 2020" rage on, NBCUniversal looks to be boosting its frontlines with a greater focus on new streaming service Peacock, but could that decision be the death knell to linear/broadcast television as we know it? During Comcast's second-quarter 2020 conference call, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell revealed to analysts that NBCUniversal Television and Streaming head Mark Lazarus was "finalizing a new structure" for the NBCU television and streaming group that will "shift resources from linear to streaming." Shell says the plan will be rolled out soon, and that it will reflect how the viewing landscape has changed over the past year: "It is said that crises tend to accelerate and exacerbate trends, and that is certainly true in the television business."
While NBCU's television group will be facing a major downsizing once pending layoffs are complete and Comcast (like many media companies) is suffering from COVID-19-related financial hits ("due to certain costs incurred in the second quarter of 2020 in response to COVID-19, including severance and restructuring charges related to our NBCUniversal segments"), Shell, as well as NBCU and Comcast executives, are feeling good about the preliminary numbers coming in for Peacock. NBCU's streaming service debuted in April for Comcast Xfinity and Flex customers and across the nation on July 15, with a choice of free, ad-supported and paid, premium subscriptions.
While Shell was cautioned that the approximately 10 million sign-ups doesn't necessarily mean "monthly active accounts" and that updated numbers were still to come, he admitted, "We didn't expect this many signups, we didn't expect this many people to come back, and we didn't expect people to watch as much as they are." For Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts, the move towards streaming is one that reflects where the world is moving towards (with self-quarantining and social distancing accelerating the conversation): "The company is really trying to lean into streaming. I'm pretty excited as the world is transitioning… broadband is making that all possible."
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