NBC's streaming service could see Friends, The Office off Netflix and Amazon, unless "the price is right"
When Comcast CEO Brian Roberts mooted a streaming service, the reverberations will have been felt across the industry
When Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said, "There is robust demand for our content across multiple platforms [which is] a great opportunity to create own streaming service," someone somewhere must have nudged Reed Hastings, CEO and chairman of Netflix.
Speaking at the company's earnings conference, Roberts went on to say: "This service will be distinct and compelling, offering current and prior seasons, library and some original content with a light advertising load all for free to pay TV customers."
The fact that Comcast is mulling an NBC streaming service is news in its own right (though not wholly new, the mill has been churning this one for a while now), it's what it means for the existing big streaming players — Netflix, Amazon, and Disney's upcoming venture — that really piques.
NBC is a media juggernaut in every sense of the word, from news to sports, they have some of the top-rated shows in the US. But it's not what they currently have, popular as it may be, that is their silver bullet, it's what they have in the vault.
Remember the TV series Friends? What about Seinfeld? Maybe you loved Frasier or Will and Grace. Maybe you grew up with Family Ties and Golden Girls. Hell maybe your favorite show of all-time is Friday Night Lights or This Is Us. It's all NBC. You may have forgotten the network, but you certainly haven't forgotten your favorite shows.
The big fear is that an NBC streaming service could pull these shows off existing services and place them exclusively on the new platform. It was a fear that pervaded the conference and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke was asked that very question. His reply was telling in its ambiguity: "We will continue to sell on other platforms depending on the show, depending on the prices."
There it is. If NBC decides to play hardball then The Office, Blacklist, Friends, The West Wing and Cheers could all be off Netflix which will hit that streaming service where it hurts the most...its global audience. There are signs that Netflix have cottoned on to this, and their global non-English strategy is testament to that, as is their plunge into films.
Netflix may be able to ride out an NBC onslaught into the space they have dominated for so many years, but for Prime Video it coud be a massive jolt. Still focussing, for the most part, on English content, if Prime loses the large numer of NBC shows on its platform (This Is Us, Friends, The Office, etc) it will lose a large part of its popular inventory with little to take its place.
Disney, with ABC in its stable, is better placed to tackle an NBC streaming service, but once NBC launches, it's only a matter of time before CBS follows suit, and there goes the neighbourhood.
NBC's acquistion of Sky and their broadcast rights to mega sporting events like the Super Bowl, put them in the unique position of becoming market leaders from the get-go, leaving everyone else to play catch-up. Till now, Roberts has been non-committal about if and when the streaming service will be launched, but it's safe to say that the 'if' has been put to bed. If you thought the streaming space was about to get crowded with Disney and Apple entering the market this year, it's also about to get bloody. This will be no David and Goliath battle, this will truly be a clash of the Titans.