Comcast Eyes More Than $700 Million in Severance, COVID-19 Costs Through Year’s End

The current fourth quarter will not be a good one for some Comcast/NBCUniversal employees as the cable and media giant grabbles with internal restructuring and fiscal realities mandated by of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on business operations.

Speaking Oct. 29 on a fiscal call, CFO Mike Cavanagh said the company had endured $239 million in year-to-date costs related to layoffs and the pandemic across cable, amusement and NBCUniversal operations. That figure is expected to more than double through the end of the year to more than $700 million. Media reports suggest more than 300 employees at NBCUniversal could lose their jobs in television, studio and streaming by the end of the year.

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the staff cuts and costs would impact the company well into 2021, underscoring the company’s “obligation” to adjust costs as revenue declines. The company recently consolidated all English-language TV networks under Frances Berwick for business operations and Susan Rovner for programming, including streaming.

“I really don’t think the definition of success is any different than it’s ever been,” Shell said. “Our job is to be profitable, generate cash flow and generate long-term value for the company, and that’s how we’re thinking about everything. And it is obviously a very changing world so you have to be nimble in doing that — but the measure of that are the same as they’ve always been.”

Shell said the [restructuring] going forward enables the company to find “great content” in a pandemic-impacted production world and use the streaming, broadband and cable platforms to maximize the value of it.

“It sets us up to grow as the world changes,” he said.

Ampere: Peacock and HBO Max Appealing to Different Audiences

NBCUniversal’s Peacock subscription streaming video service topped 15 million app subs, while WarnerMedia’s HBO Max surpassed 4.1 million in their respective first month of operation. New data from Ampere Analysis contends consumer response to the two platforms has been positive.

The London-based research firm, citing a survey of 4,000 online respondents in the U.S., found 8% of domestic Internet homes had Max subscriptions, while 7% were using Peacock. Age seems to be a factor among app subscribers.

“Peacock’s early adopters show that it has been successful in converting broadcast channel audiences — who are an older demographic and typically more difficult to convert — into SVOD subscribers, allowing it to play in an arena that is generally less competitive,” senior analyst Annabel Yeomans said in a statement.

Indeed, Max subscribers are 50% more likely to be in the 25- to 44-year-old age group, which is identical to the current HBO pay-TV sub. In addition, Max’s $14.99 — thus attracting 69% of households with incomes of $51,000 or more.

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Meanwhile, Peacock is appealing to slightly older subs (35 to 44), with broadcast programming targeting older viewers, according to Ampere. The report contends 19% of Peacock’s viewers are over 55, compared with 6% of Max viewers. And 54% of Peacock households have total incomes of $51,000 or more.

Peacock, unlike other major SVOD platforms, has a free ad-supported option.

Regardless, content remains king and Yeomans said Max has yet to diversify its audience away from the hardcore HBO pay-TV channel known for high-end drama, comedy and documentaries.

“Nonetheless this is an already-crowded market with strong competitors like, so while increasing the diversity of catalogs and quality of original content will be key to driving scale, playing to each services’ brand and audience strengths should also not be forgotten,” she said.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service Now Available on Roku

As expected, Peacock and Roku Sept. 21 officially announced that the Peacock streaming video app is now available nationwide on the Roku platform, reaching households with an estimated 100 million people. The agreement followed months of negotiations that saw NBCUniversal’s SVOD service enter the market without distribution on Roku and Amazon Fire TV — both considered must-have distribution channels in the over-the-top video ecosystem.

Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts Sept. 15 disclosed that Peacock, which is available for $4.99 per month with ads and $9.99 without, had attracted 15 million subscribers without Roku distribution since launching nationwide in July.

In addition to a SVOD option offering subscribers access to more than 20,000 hours of on-demand movies and shows, as well as live news and sports programming, Peacock offers a free, ad-supported option featuring more than 13,000 hours of current, classic, and original movies and shows, as well as live and on-demand content across news, sports, reality, late-night, and Spanish-language.

“Roku customers are engaged streamers and we know they’ll love access to a wide range of free and paid content,” Maggie McLean Suniewick, president of business development and partnerships at Peacock, said in a statement.

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“Audience demand for compelling content is fueling a surging shift to streaming for a majority of American households today,” said Tedd Cittadine, VP of content acquisition at Roku. “We’re focused on delivering the kind of high-quality news and entertainment content Roku users want and love … and help NBCUniversal build a bigger fan base.”

In addition to current season programming from NBC and Telemundo, Peacock offers access to live sports like upcoming coverage of the Premier League; hundreds of blockbuster movies like Trolls World Tour, 3:10 to Yuma and Beetlejuice; iconic shows, including comedies “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The King of Queens,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Frasier,” “George Lopez” and “Cheers;” dramas “Law & Order: SVU,” “Downton Abbey,” “Yellowstone,” “Friday Night Lights,” “House,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Psych,” “Parenthood,” “Monk” and “Heroes”; kids programming, including “Curious George,” “Where’s Waldo?” and “Cleopatra in Space”; reality hits, including the “Real Housewives” franchise, “Top Chef” and “Below Deck”; and Peacock Original series, including dramas “Brave New World,” “Noughts + Crosses,” “The Capture” and “Departure”; comedies “Five Bedrooms,” “Intelligence” and “A.P. Bio”;  documentaries, including Black Boys, The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show, and A Most Beautiful Thing; and late-night shows, including “Wilmore” with Larry Wilmore and “The Amber Ruffin Show.”

In addition to the Roku platform, Peacock is currently available on Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; and VIZIO SmartCast TVs, Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro, and LG Smart TVs. Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, as well as eligible Cox Contour customers, enjoy Peacock Premium as part of their subscription at no additional cost.

NBCUniversal, Roku Set to Announce First-Ever Peacock Carriage Deal

Carriage disputes traditionally occurring between content holders and pay-TV distributors have gone over-the-top — and now have a happy ending.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit and streaming media pioneer Roku are set to announce in the next few days a carriage agreement that would include the media giant’s TV Everywhere channels and — for the first time — distribution of the Peacock streaming video platform. TV Everywhere channels (i.e. apps) include NBC, Bravo, E!, Syfy and USA Networks.

The tentative agreement, disclosed by a source familiar with the situation, would put to end a long-running impasse that has kept Peacock off the Roku (and Amazon Fire TV) platform since it launched in July. Comcast this week disclosed the platform has 15 million subscribers since launching nationwide.

Until this agreement, which should be announced in the coming days, NBCUNiversal had threatened to remove its TV Everywhere apps from the Roku platform.

“Comcast is removing the channels in order to try to force Roku to distribute its new Peacock service on unreasonable terms,” Roku said previously in statement.

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Indeed, Peacock, like WarnerMedia’s HBO Max subscription streaming video platform, had issue with Roku over distribution fees (Roku takes 20% cut) and revenue sharing (30%), among other issues. The situation is similar to carriage spats between content holders and pay-TV operators that often lead to channel blackouts.

NBCUniversal contends that during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the need for video content — both ad-supported and subscription-based — is vital.

“Roku has made the extremely unfortunate decision to remove NBCUniversal’s leading content from their platform,” said a rep in a statement. “We are disappointed Roku is removing its users’ free access to NBCUniversal programming, 11 network apps, 12 NBC Owned Station apps, 23 Telemundo Owned Station apps — and continues to block access to the only free premium streaming service available in the market, Peacock.”

NBCUniversal contended Roku’s “unreasonable” demands hurt both their consumers and their consumer equipment partners to whom they’ve promised access to all apps in the marketplace.

The Roku platform had more than 43 million active user accounts at the end of June. Roku is projected to end the year with 52 million user accounts — or 40% of all U.S. broadband households, according to Conviva.

The Motley Fool reported that the average Roku user streamed 3.64 hours of content a day in the first quarter, ended March 31. That translated to 13.2 billion hours users spent consuming content on the platform, which was up 49% from the previous-year period. That tally has likely exploded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Roku argues that by not agreeing with its terms, NBCUniversal is losing out on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenue. CNBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, reported that its parent is seeking the distribution fee be cut to 15%, in addition to remedying an ad-software issue.

“[NBCUniversal is] hesitant about connecting Peacock with third-party software it can’t control,]” CNBC said in its report.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service Tops 15 Million Subs Since Launching in July

NBCUniversal’s upstart SVOD/AVOD streaming video platform, Peacock, has surpassed 15 million subscribers, Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts Sept. 15 told a virtual investor event. Peacock topped 10 million subs six weeks after launching nationwide in July.

“That’s 50% more than just six weeks ago,” Roberts said from his home on the Goldman Sachs 29th Annual Communicopia Conference. The CEO said the convergence of entertainment distribution between media and tech companies across multiple platforms has become an ongoing reality — driven by broadband and streaming video.

Comcast Chairman/CEO Brian Roberts

“We saw this coming and feel we are one of the best companies to play offense in this environment,” Roberts said.

Indeed, as Comcast continues to hemorrhage pay-TV subscribers (477,000 in Q2), the cable operator has quietly become one of the world’s largest ISPs and (broadband) distributors — adding 1.6 million high-speed Internet subscribers in the past 12 months, to end Q2 with 29.4 million subs. Roberts said that Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky is now the No. 2 broadband provider in Italy and Germany.

The executive said that Comcast would bring two Olympic Games and the Super Bowl to NBC over the next 18 months, in addition to Peacock. Roberts envisions the hybrid SVOD/AVOD platform to be complementary to pay-TV and not necessarily an all-or-nothing replacement.

“Peacock is big part of the ecosystem but not the only part,” Roberts said, adding that content development going forward would be distributed in the channel delivering it the most consumer retention.

“First and foremost develop content that resonates and then determine maybe its for network and Peacock, maybe just Peacock, and maybe we’ll go across all three: broadcast, broadband and Peacock,” he said. “We think that gets us a better focus on decision making.”

Bonnie Hammer Upped to Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal; Pearlena Igbokwe to Chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios

Comcast Corp. continues to restructure senior management in the aftermath of several abrupt senior executive departures at NBCUniversal.

The media giant Sept. 9 announced that 30-year veteran Bonnie Hammer has been tapped to take former NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer’s position, while Pearlena Igbokwe replaces Hammer in the chairman position of the NBCUniversal Content Group, which includes Universal Television, Universal Content Productions and NBCUniversal International Studios. Both positions report to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

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Meyer, 75, exited the studio last month after 25 years following disclosure of a personal affair with a young actress. His ouster followed the dismissal of NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy, who was shown the door following allegations of promoting a hostile work environment.

“This is an exciting time for our business, with demand for entertainment content at an all-time high and more distribution platforms available than ever before,” Shell said in a statement regarding Igbokwe, Hammer promotions. “Our television studios are key growth engines for the company, and Pearlena is ideally suited to lead them. She has extraordinary taste and is well-respected within NBCU, and throughout the global creative community.”

Shell lauded Hammer’s “deep industry experience” and “impeccable creative instincts” as key to her promotion. “I am extremely pleased to be gaining Bonnie as a trusted adviser,” Shell said. “Her 25-plus years of prosocial advocacy will be immensely valuable to me and our company.”

Peacock Adds NBC Sports Channel

Peacock has added a new exclusive free channel: NBC Sports on Peacock.

Debuting Aug. 24, the channel will stream daytime live sports talk programming, including “PFT Live with Mike Florio,” “The Dan Patrick Show” and “The Rich Eisen Show.” In September, “Brother From Another” and “PFT PM” will join the lineup.

From the creators of “Pro Football Talk Live,” “PFT PM” delivers the latest news from around the league. The show is hosted by Mike Florio and regularly features Charean Williams, Peter King, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Chris Simms.

“Peacock provides live topical sports conversations all day, every weekday, from the best and most experienced personalities in sports,” Rick Cordella, EVP and chief revenue officer for Peacock, said in a statement. “We’re excited to launch the NBC Sports Channel on Peacock with this unique and exclusive content, who provide the fans the latest commentary and opinion on everything that is happening in the world of sport.”

The NBC Sports on Peacock schedule includes “PFT Live with Mike Florio” 7 a.m.-9 a.m. ET, “The Dan Patrick Show” 9 a.m.-noon ET, “The Rich Eisen Show” noon-3 p.m. ET (exclusivity begins Oct. 5), “Brother From Another” 3 p.m.-6 p.m. ET, and “PFT PM” 6 p.m.-7 p.m. ET.

Shows will be available on demand in addition to streaming live. Highlights from NBC Sports Channel on Peacock will also be featured in the service’s Trending section, a hub for short-form content that is updated on a daily basis and includes sports highlights, pop culture updates, and shorter interview and news segments.

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Upcoming live sports on Peacock includes coverage of golf’s U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open, Premier League, an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game, and select events from the upcoming Tokyo and Beijing Olympics. Fans can also watch on demand replays of events such as Triple Crown horse races, daily highlights from NBC Sports, and hundreds of hours of sports series, documentaries and films such as Tiger Woods: Chasing History; 1968; I Am AliDream TeamBeing EvelFeherty; Willie; and Peacock Originals Lost Speedways and In Deep with Ryan Lochte.

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Consumers can sign up for Peacock for free at peacocktv.com. Peacock is currently available on Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs. Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, as well as eligible Cox Contour customers, enjoy Peacock Premium included with their service at no additional cost.

NBCUniversal CEO: PVOD Addresses ‘Very Large’ Non-Theatrical Audience

Universal Pictures’ landmark distribution agreement with the nation’s largest exhibitor AMC Theatres, enabling it to sell and rent digital access to new-release movies in the home entertainment market just 17 days after their box office, debut taps into a largely unserved consumer, according to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Speaking July 30 on the Comcast fiscal call, Shell thanked AMC CEO Adam Aron for “his vision” in working together — rather than against — Universal to create new business model and revenue opportunities for both companies.

“We’ve always believed PVOD can be a complement rather than a replacement for a robust theatrical release,” Shell said, adding that the studio has always believed there’s a growing segment of the population that does not go to the movie theater.

“Over the last couple of years, it’s become more increasingly difficult to generate the same returns over the first couple of windows,” he said. “We believe the new model in the U.S. will restore some of those economics, probably not make more movies, but keep production levels the same as in the past.”

Shell said the advantage to the shortened 17-day box office is that PVOD and transactional VOD marketing can be done in the same window.

“It allows us to tap into that incremental [transactional VOD] revenue stream, share it with AMC and other exhibitors, and at the same time preserve that theatrical window that is so critical to the film business,” he said.

Peacock Streaming Service Tallies 10 Million Subs Since July 15 Launch

NBCUniversal’s high-profile subscription streaming and ad-supported VOD platform, Peacock, has generated 10 million subscribers since its July 15 launch, Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts announced July 30.

The service, along with WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, represent the latest major media company efforts to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu in the burgeoning over-the-top video market.

Speaking on the fiscal call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the launch has exceeded expectations thus far.

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“We could not be more pleased,” he said. “Not only are more people signing up than we projected, but they are watching more frequently and engaging much longer than we projected.”

One key difference between Peacock and other services is the new service offers a free ad-supported tier with limited programming that new subscribers can access without a credit card or paying anything. Subscribers can choose to unlock all the content with a paid premium tier with limited ads, or an ad-free premium tier.

Shell said he expects Peacock to ramp up subscriptions in the fall and with the launch of new original programming in January.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service Launches Nationally

The hype is over. Now comes the heavy lifting. NBCUniversal July 15 formally launched the Peacock app, affording users and subscribers access to more than 20,000 hours of content from networks and studios.

Peacock, unlike other SVOD platforms, offers an ad-supported free tier and an ad-supported premium tier for $4.99/month, serving no more than five minutes of advertising per hour. An ad-free version of the premium tier is also available for $9.99/month.

“This is a historic moment for our company as we proudly introduce Peacock to consumers nationwide — a groundbreaking vision that was brought to life by an incredible team of people from across Comcast, NBCUniversal and Sky,” Matt Strauss, chairman of Peacock, said in a July 14 statement.

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Like WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Peacock is not available on Roku or Amazon Fire TV. It is available on Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Xbox One S and Xbox One X; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs. Starting the week of July 20, Peacock will be available Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro.

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Content sources include NBC, Bravo, USA Network, Syfy, Oxygen, E!, CNBC, MSNBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Universal Kids, A&E, ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, History, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, ViacomCBS, Paramount, Lionsgate, Warner Bros. and Blumhouse. In addition, the service will feature Peacock Original movies and shows; more than 30 curated channels; current season series and specials from NBC and Telemundo; live news and sports; as well as daily trending highlights from “Today,” “NBC Nightly News,” “Meet the Press,” “Noticias Telemundo,” MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports, “E! News” and “Access Hollywood.”