NBCUniversal announces streaming service that will be free to paid TV subscribers

NBCUniversal is joining the long list of media giants looking to compete with Netflix.

The company today announced plans to launch its own streaming service in early 2020. The still-unnamed service will include advertising and will be available at no additional cost to pay TV subscribers. If you aren’t a pay TV subscriber, or if you want to watch without ads, you’ll also be able to buy a standalone subscription.

Many of the specifics have yet to be announced, but CNBC reports that it will include NBC TV shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks & Recreation,” with a subscription costing around $12 per month.

“NBCUniversal has some of the world’s most valuable intellectual property and top talent, both in front of and behind the camera,” said CEO Steve Burke in a statement. “Many of the most-watched shows on today’s popular streaming platforms come from NBCUniversal. 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.”

Does this mean your NBC shows will disappear from Netflix and other services? Maybe not — at least not entirely.

In the announcement, the company says it will continue selling content to other studios and other platforms, which Burke also emphasized in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter: “We as a matter of policy plan to sell to everyone. It will be attractive for us to have another buyer in the form of our own direct-to-consumer service, but we’re going to constantly be looking at all the alternatives and put shows where they belong and where they maximize value.”

Still, with NBCUniversal, Disney and WarnerMedia all planning to launch streaming services in the next year or so, it seems that Netflix, Amazon and others will be losing out on popular shows, and will be paying more for the shows they do hold on to.

For example, Burke noted that the American version of “The Office” is “often the No. 1 show on a monthly basis on Netflix.” Apparently Netflix has the streaming rights until 2021, at which point “we’ll look at our existing direct-to-consumer service and what kind of volume it has and how much we could expect to make if we moved it over, and we’ll have a discussion with Netflix and we’ll decide what’s right for the show.”

As part of the news, NBCUniversal also announced some leadership changes and restructuring. Bonnie Hammer, who previously led the company’s cable division, has been promoted to chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, where she’ll be in charge of the new service. NBCUniversal’s existing digital enterprises group will become part of Hammer’s team.

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