Peacock to Become Exclusive Home of WWE Network Streaming Service

In a major lifeline for pro wrestling streaming access, Peacock and WWE Jan. 25  announced a multi-year agreement that gives Peacock exclusive streaming rights to WWE Network in the United States.

NBCUniversal has a long-standing relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network.

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

Peacock will launch WWE Network on March 18, beginning the roll-out of more than 17,000 hours of new, original, and library programming on demand and on a 24/7 channel.

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The companies will share details on managing customer accounts closer to the Peacock launch in March. WWE Network, including all PPV events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5 per month savings. For an ad-free experience, Peacock Premium Plus will be available for $9.99.

“WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters,” said Rick Cordella, Peacock EVP and chief revenue officer in a statement.

Cordella said the WWE Network is a “transformative” addition to the platform and complements Peacock’s catalog of movies and shows, as well as live news and sports from NBCUniversal.

“Peacock is an innovative platform that will enable us to showcase our most significant events, including ‘WrestleMania,’ and provide the entertainment our fans have come to expect with the combination of premium WWE content, live sports, news, films and television programs,” said Nick Khan, WWE president and chief revenue officer, in a statement.

The agreement includes all live pay-per-view  events, including “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam”; “Fastlane” will be the first WWE pay-per-view to stream on Peacock on March 21.

Original series include “Steve Austin Broken Skull Sessions,” “Undertaker: The Last Ride” and the all-new “WWE Icons”; in-ring shows such as “NXT,” “NXT U.K.” and “WWE 205 Live,” as well as replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown”; and “WWE Network” archives, including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history.

Documentaries include “WWE 24,” “WWE Untold,” and “WWE 365,” and, starting in 2022, one signature documentary annually.

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; 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, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation5; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

‘The Office’ Enjoys January Streaming Boost on Peacock

As content goes, NBCUniversal’s exclusive $500 million streaming license acquisition of “The Office” from Netflix was one of the big stories to end 2020. Reruns of the 2005-13 NBC comedy have ranked consistently among the top three streamed programs on living room televisions, according to Nielsen.

So all eyes are on the show’s performance on Peacock in early 2021. Unsurprisingly, “The Office,” which saw an increase in streaming a couple of weeks prior to its Netflix departure, saw an even sharper incline upon its arrival on Peacock (Free + Premium). The share of streams for the series rose 9.2% Jan. 1-7, topping Netflix original “Bridgerton” and the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” on Reelgood’s list of the Top 100 most-watched TV shows for that specific week.

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Since then, the level of “Office” viewing activity seems to have slowed to more sustainable levels, but it’s good news for NBC that the series seems to be living up to its potential and has not dropped below Netflix levels of streaming thus far.

Additionally, the content aggregator with 2 million members found that the number of users with Peacock Free selected as one of their subscription services via Reelgood grew by 17% during the week of Jan. 8 vs. the week of Dec. 25.

Similarly, the number of Reelgood users with Peacock Premium as a streaming service grew by a more conservative 5% within the same timeframe.

Report: NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service to Top 52 Million Subs by 2024

NBCUniversal’s upstart hybrid subscription streaming video service, Peacock, is projected to surpass 52 million paid/free members by 2024 since its mid-July launch last year. The service disclosed it had 26 million subs in December.

The tally, according to new data from Wall Street firm Macquarie, suggests Comcast’s first branded SVOD/AVOD platform generated $296 million in revenue last year. Peacock features a free ad-supported access to 13,000 hours of content option; a $4.99 monthly option with limited ads; and a $9.99 monthly ad-free plan with 20,000 hours of content. Revenue is projected to reach $604 million in 2021, $1.96 billion by 2024.

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Peacock, which is available on the Roku platform, is not currently offered to Amazon Fire TV’s 50 million members or on Samsung’s online TV platform due to ongoing carriage disagreements. Rival streaming platform Discovery+ just launched on both Roku and Amazon, while HBO Max finally secured access to the two streaming gateways after bowing last year without access.

Peacock last week announced the launch of “LIT Entertainment News” channel, a 24-hour celebrity news offering that will be exclusive for a month before being licensed to other platforms domestically and abroad.

 

NFL Wildcard Weekend Broke Broadcast/Streaming Molds

The NFL’s just-concluded busy wildcard playoff weekend saw 12 teams reduced to eight advancing to the divisional round, beginning Jan. 16. Notably, for the first time playoff games were live-streamed (ESPN+, Peacock) and broadcast on a children’s network (Nickelodeon), in addition to the usual TV networks.

During the New Orleans Saints’ win over the Chicago Bears, Nickelodeon viewers got see trademark green slime sprayed virtually into the end zone and across the screen after Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas scored a touchdown. The game drew Nickelodeon’s largest audience in four years with 2 million viewers.

While the simulcast with CBS Sports underscored ViacomCBS’s desire to involve its brands (Nickelodeon) across new markets, for the NFL, the game represented an opportunity to reach a new demo early.

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“Our entire model is based on reach,” Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO of NFL Media, said in an interview Sunday night. “The positive responses have been overwhelming [for the Nickelodeon game], but what we did with CBS was a continuation of what we did across Sunday.”

On Disney-owned ESPN+, streamers saw analytics on steroids with an individual play’s likelihood of succeeding put on display. Indeed, an interception thrown by Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson only had only a 28% chance of being caught by the receiver initially.

Amazon Prime Video and sister company Twitch were the first streaming platforms to offer live NFL coverage through “Thursday Night Football,” featuring the sport’s first female broadcast team.

“When you have as broad appeal as we’re fortunate to have, we want to make sure we’re putting out a broad set of experiences on as many screens as we can, and increase the way our fans engage and enjoy the games,” Schroeder said.

Indeed, ESPN will feature tonight NCAA College Football National Championship Game between The Ohio State Buckeyes and University of Alabama Crimson Tide across 14 separate broadcasts, including streaming.

Charter Spectrum Gets Access to Peacock Streaming Service

NBCUniversal and Charter Communications Jan. 7 announced a multiyear distribution agreement for NBCUniversal’s portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, Hispanic, news and sports content in Charter’s Spectrum homes and businesses across 41 states.

As part of the carriage agreement, Charter will offer its pay-TV subscribers direct access to Peacock Premium, with the ad-supported $4.99 SVOD option available for an extended free trial to Spectrum’s broadband and pay-TV subscribers. Charter intends to distribute the Peacock app, which includes separate free AVOD and $9.99 ad-free Premium Plus options via its Spectrum Guide platform in the future.

The deal is significant since it helps NBCUniversal expand Peacock distribution channels, which include Amazon Fire TV and Roku. The SVOD/AVOD hybrid topped 26 million subs a month ago.

Spectrum will also continue to offer subscribers NBC, Telemundo, Bravo, CNBC, E!, MSNBC, The Olympic Channel, Oxygen, Syfy, USA Network, Universal Kids, Universo, The Golf Channel, CNBC World, New England Cable News (NECN), and NBC Sports Network, as well as five of NBC’s Regional Sports Networks: NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Northwest, NBC Sports Boston and NBC Sports Chicago.

Charter ended the most-recent fiscal period with 15.7 million pay-TV subs, and 26.8 million high-speed Internet subs — up 9% from 24.6 million a year ago.

“Charter is a valued partner with passionate NBCUniversal fans in millions of homes nationwide,” said Matt Bond, chairman of content distribution at NBCUniversal. “We look forward to delivering our industry-leading network content portfolio, as well as the strong collection of original and library content in our Peacock Premium offering, to Charter’s subscribers everywhere.”

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; 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 PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; and VIZIO SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

Nielsen: ‘The Office’ Atop Weekly SVOD Chart

One of Netflix’s streaming hits is re-runs of former NBC sitcom “The Office.” The series finished atop Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 SVOD chart through Dec. 13, 2020, tracking 1.27 billion minutes streamed across 192 episodes. The longtime podium finisher gained attention in December as the series moved to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service on Jan. 1.

Nielsen’s chart tracks Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu streaming data on household televisions.

Disney’s “The Mandalorian” moved up to the No. 2 spot with 1 billion minutes — the highest ranking on Nielsen’s chart tracking viewership of two minutes or more per program. The previous week’s chart topper, “Virgin River,” dropped to No. 3 with 948 million minutes across 20 episodes.

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Persons 2+ Total Minutes Viewed – Week of 12/7/20 – 12/13/20
Source: Nielsen SVOD Content Ratings (Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Live Streaming Browns-Steelers NFL Wild Card Game

NBCUniversal’s upstart SVOD service Peacock is making good on its pledge to offer major live sports. In a first, the streamer Jan. 6 announced it would offer subscribers access to NBC Sports’ coverage of the NFL Wild Card playoff game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports is broadcasting the game on NBC and Telemundo.

This will be the first time NFL live game coverage will stream on Peacock.

In addition, former ESPN host Michael Smith and regional NBC Sports host Michael Holley, co-anchors of the Peacock show, “Brother From Another,” will lead Peacock’s first-ever post-game show on Sunday night immediately following NBC’s post-game show coverage. Smith and Holley will provide Browns-Steelers game analysis and perspectives to recap the full weekend slate of six NFL Wild Card playoff games. Coverage will begin streaming following the conclusion of Browns-Steelers at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET.

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To date, only Amazon Prime Video has dabbled with live-streaming professional sports, including “NFL Thursday Night Football” and select Premier League soccer matches. Netflix has heretofore refused to consider the live sports market, citing reluctance to get into cost-prohibitive license rights bidding.

 

Comcast’s Matt Strauss Discusses How Peacock Spread Its Wings During a Pandemic

Launching NBCUniversal’s new flagship streaming service Peacock might have seemed a daunting task under normal circumstances — but it took on new challenges during a pandemic.

Still, Matt Strauss and his team knew there were many ways Peacock could spread its wings.

Strauss, chairman of direct-to-consumer and international at Comcast, is responsible for all aspects of Peacock, among other duties. The AVOD/SVOD hybrid service has gathered 26 million total subscribers, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell revealed Dec. 8.

Strauss told attendees Dec. 15 at DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group’s virtual pre-CES event that Peacock, which launched in July, is designed to fill an important niche in the increasingly competitive streaming marketplace — and that it has a long-term strategy.

“When we launched Peacock, we really wanted to keep our heads down,” he said. “It was really about execution. We thought that there was an opportunity to surprise and delight people with something that we believe is unique in the market, but at the same time, one of our mantras has really been it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

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One initial curveball during launch was the postponement of the Olympics, which had been designed as must-see programming on the new streaming service, to be boosted by an elaborate marketing campaign.

“I’m always a very optimistic person by nature, and I always look for a silver lining,” Strauss said. “I think that there was a silver lining because the week that we were planning to launch nationally for the Olympics — it would have been great in many respects — but at the same time it was a kind of very concentrated way that we were going to launch during the few weeks of the Olympics, and what we ended up doing is coming up with a similar plan, but we spread it out across the back half of the year, and I think that that gave us this ongoing cadence and drumbeat that, from a marketing standpoint, I believe, was actually better than what we had initially planned.”

There was another bright side.

“We actually thought that in a small way Peacock could benefit with everything that was going on in the world, giving people another entertainment option,” he said.

Another advantage Peacock had was companywide expertise and products supporting a service that “really taps into every part of Comcast,” he said. The platform is built from Sky’s Snap TV OTT service, NBCUniversal powered a lot of the programming, and Comcast’s cable unit offered on demand knowledge.

“I myself come from Comcast cable,” he said. “I’ve been at Comcast for 16 years, so I’ve had a front row seat in the evolution that we’ve gone through as a company with the development of X1 and Flex, broadband products. When it came to Peacock, you really had stakeholders from all the different parts of the company with different experiences that were brought to the table when it came to design.”

Peacock tapped Comcast’s X1 and Flex (Internet-only) customers to refine the user interface by offering its premium service to them first at no additional cost in April.

“It was a really interesting sandbox, and we wanted to use three months to really harden the application,” he said.

Executives didn’t want Peacock to be a “me too” service, so they combined the experience of watching linear TV with on-demand components and a unique “trending” feature, tapping into how younger generations interact with video. They also decided to offer ads, in a departure from other new services Disney+ and Apple TV+, as well as established SVOD player Netflix.

“We know the trends that everybody else is looking at,” he said. “You’re continuing to see pay-TV decline, not really because people don’t like pay television, but because they’re getting priced out. The average cable or satellite bill is $85 a month. And then you’re looking at a service like Netflix, which has done a very good job at creating a good price-value equation, that others are moving towards, and you know there’s a lot of competition in the streaming space and it’s only grown in past 18 months, and a lot of it is trying to go after Netflix, and we realized that that wasn’t really where we thought the opportunity was for us.”

They decided on offering a free, ad-supported component to combat this subscription fatigue.

“At some point, when you’re paying for internet and now two, three or four subscription services, I think for some people it becomes frustrating,” he said.

The Peacock team also concentrated on offering a unique product.

“Our ambition with Peacock is to really position ourselves as the premium ad-supported aggregation streaming service,” he said. “We didn’t call ourselves NBC+. We didn’t call ourselves that for a reason — because we wanted to position ourselves as an aggregator that can go beyond the boundaries of our catalog and our content. But we also believe as we continue to produce more programming, add more content, that there’s also an opportunity for us to migrate customers to subscription.”

They also knew there was an opportunity to address a need in the advertising community as more eyeballs were moving to streaming.

“There was a pent-up demand that was growing with advertisers looking for the ability to participate,” he said. “But they want to participate with premium content, and there weren’t a lot of options in the streaming space that they could participate in that way, and we saw that as a sweet spot for us.”

In contrast to other ad-supported streaming services, Peacock has a more user-friendly ad load of no more than five minutes of ads per hour, he said.

“We felt really fortunate that we were able to secure 10 premium launch sponsors with Peacock, and the benefit is that they get an uncluttered environment,” he said. “They also have a seat at the table as we’re developing the product because in many respects our ambition is really not just to look at this as a 15-second spot or a 30-second spot but how do we start to find other creative ways through ad innovation that we can bring the advertisers to light.”

Unlike other services, Peacock also avoids repeating ads to a customer over and over again.

“Even if it’s a limited ad load, there’s nothing more frustrating in my opinion than seeing the same ad in different pods while you’re watching a show,” he said.

Looking into 2021, Strauss sees a wealth of programming coming, in part due to production slowdowns and the Olympics delay.

“The Olympics got shifted, and now next year, we’ll almost have two Olympics within a relatively short amount of time,” he said. “Even though we were able to launch over a dozen original series this year, we had more planned, and now we’re going to have more next year than we had initially contemplated because of COVID.”

The service in January will serve up a Wild Card game with the NFL, and then there’s the sitcom juggernaut “The Office,” which also hits the service that month. NBCUniversal outbid Netflix, on which “The Office” reigned as one of the top programs, to bring the comedy to Peacock.

“We’ve got some exciting things in how we can present ‘The Office’ in a way that’s maybe a little bit more unique than what people have seen in the past,” he said.

The first two seasons (2005-06) of the series will be available for free with ads, while subsequent seasons, in addition to “Superfan Episodes,” will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without ads. The “Superfan Episodes” offer unseen footage, extended cuts and deleted scenes.

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Having tried to launch an on-demand service almost 20 years ago, Strauss said he feels “almost like a kid in a candy store” with the technology and marketplace Peacock is in today.

“I feel fortunate that I was almost given an opportunity to do it again, but to do it in a way where the technology has evolved, clearly audiences and users have evolved, and the distribution has grown significantly,” he said.

Starting a streaming VOD service from scratch has been a unique opportunity, he said.

“I’ve got this sandbox,” he said. “I can really try to push the envelope to where I think the puck is going with what people are looking for, and the bar’s lower because I’m starting with almost no subscribers, so it’s an opportunity for us to iterate quickly, learn quickly.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming ‘The Office’ ‘Superfan Episodes’ Beginning Jan. 1, 2021

Catalog mockumentary “The Office” makes its exclusive bow on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service on Jan. 1, 2021. It’s a big deal since “The Office” has ranked among Netflix’s most-popular programs on a weekly basis since Nielsen began tracking SVOD programming.

With NBCUniversal outbidding Netflix for exclusive streaming rights, the media giant is set to make available for free the first two seasons (2005-06) of the series about the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, and featuring an ensemble cast headed by Steve Carell, Jena Fischer, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling and Rainn Wilson, among others.

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Subsequent seasons, in addition to the “Superfan Episodes” will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 with out ads. The “Superfan Episodes” offer unseen footage, extended cuts and deleted scenes.

“Having ‘The Office’ back in the [NBCUniversal] family opens up access to a lot of extra content that we originally shot,’ Greg Daniels, creator of the U.S. version of the show, said in a statement. “I went back into the dailies with the original [show] editors … and found some never-before-seen footage that was cut for time, but is still fun to see.

Viewers can either watch the classic version of the show, or the ‘Superfan’ cuts with new footage and other scenes Peacock will gradually begin rolling out, starting with the third season.

Episodes will be available with Spanish audio and closed captions. In addition, the series will have video clips categorized by “pranks,” “best office romances,” and “office words of wisdom,” among other genres. Peacock is also streaming a channel called “The Office Zen” featuring “ambient noise devoted to the sights and sounds of the office for anyone working at home.”

CEO Jeff Shell: Premium Content Going to Peacock AVOD

As ad-supported VOD platforms proliferate in response to SVOD market domination by Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, the distribution channel, which includes The Roku Channel, IMDb TV, Pluto TV, Shout! Factory TV and Tubi, has been dogged by a dearth of higher profile content.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, which launched in July as the market’s first hybrid SVOD/AVOD business model, is looking to change that. The free ad-supported VOD option is targeting original content, including live sports such as the U.K.’s Premier League soccer from the U.K. to entice viewers, according to CEO Jeff Shell.

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Speaking Dec. 8 on the virtual UBS Global Investor confab, Shell said making the free AVOD Peacock service “as strong as possible” in programming is the company’s primary goal in the short term.

Jeff Shell

“We want viewer penetration, so we will offer the vast majority of our strong programming on the AVOD service to continue this momentum we are seeing in distribution,” Shell said, adding that as Peacock SVOD subscriptions increase, the optionality for distribution increases.

“There are many people signing up for premium Peacock to get specific niche programming that we’re not offering on the AVOD service,” he said. “And I think we’ll continue to do that, especially since [SVOD sub growth] has been stronger than we expected.”

Shell disclosed that the Peacock SVOD service generated 26 million subs through Dec. 7 — up 4 million subs since Comcast’s fiscal call last month. He said the service is being considered for selective international markets, which would not include regions such as the U.K., Germany and Italy already covered by sister satellite TV company Sky.

“Peacock is a product we will use selectively in markets,” Shell said. “The original programming we’re making for Peacock will obviously be shown and used on Sky services as well.”