NBCU details plans for new streaming platform

US media company NBCUniversal has revealed plans to launch a new streaming platform in 2020, as well as detailing a significant reshuffling of senior staff, including Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Broadcasting & Sports.

The Variety website said NBCU’s new streaming service will seek to differentiate itself from those of its rivals. An advertising-supported platform will be provided free to cable television subscribers of parent company Comcast, as well as European pay-television broadcaster Sky, which Comcast secured control of last year.

The service is expected to feature original content and programming from outside partners as well as material from the archives. Variety said an ad-free version will also be available for a fee, with non-pay-television customers being able to purchase a subscription separately.

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, NBCU chief executive Steve Burke said the company will seek to lean on Sky’s experience in the OTT sector through Now TV by engaging with the technical team behind that platform.

Regarding NBCU’s delay in revealing its OTT plans, Burke said: “It’s a big decision. It’s taken us a while to develop it, but we’ve come up with what we think is a very innovative way of planning to get into the streaming business. That is to, first of all, be free to the consumer, which I think will get us a lot of attention and a lot of usage.

“The way we make money is by interactive advertising. We think we can get around $5 (€4) a month from people who would use a free service. If you look at it, you would have gotten maybe double that if you were charging. Will you get twice as many users for free as you would get by charging? I think the answer is that you will get a lot more than twice as many.

“So we then said, ‘OK what’s the best way to launch a free ad-supported service?’ And we decided that the best way to do it is to do it in concert with the cable and satellite companies. In the US, of course, that will be Comcast Cable, our sister company. In the UK, Italy and Germany, that will be Sky, which we now own. All of a sudden, you’ve got 52 million customers with Comcast and Sky.

“Then we would hope to add Charter, DirecTV and everyone else, all promoting and offering a service to customers at no cost. We think this is our best chance at getting scale quickly.”

Meanwhile, NBCU’s reorganisation of its senior executives will see Lazarus expand his remit and become chairman of NBCUniversal Broadcast, Cable, Sports and News.

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