NBCU Teases Streaming Plans As It Weighs Hulu Options

NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service will launch “in about a year,” according to NBCU CEO Steve Burke, speaking on parent company Comcast’s quarterly earnings call this week.

The company has remained somewhat mum on its streaming plans since announcing its intention to enter the space in January. The NBCU service will be ad-supported, and free to Comcast and Sky subscribers in the U.S. and Europe. Others will be able to pay to subscribe to the service.

Burke argues that this approach will allow the company to achieve massive scale — and ultimately, profitability — faster than many competitors.

“So our approach, which we think is very interesting and different, is to take thousands of hours of great programming and make it free to the vast majority of people who live in the United States or the UK,” Burke said. “That's a way to get real scale quickly and achieve profitability more quickly than we would otherwise.”

Burke added the current streaming landscape is “in some ways reminiscent of cable in the 1970s or 1980s. There will be a lot of entrants and a lot of companies will try to enter with their own unique strengths leveraging their own unique assets.”

The company plans to leverage Sky’s Now OTT platform to develop its upcoming service, with senior executives from Sky having moved to the U.S. to develop the platform.

Comcast is also reported to be weighing whether to sell its 30% stake in Hulu to Disney, according to CNBC.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts addressed the company’s stake in Hulu on the call.

“On Hulu, the relationship with NBC is very much in everybody's interest to maintain. We have no new news today on it other than to say it's really valuable. And we're really glad we own a large piece of it,” Roberts said.

NBC currently sells its same-season streaming rights to Hulu. If Comcast does sell its stake to Disney, it may want a guarantee that Hulu will continue to be a buyer of NBC shows under Disney.

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