How NBC’s Rick Cordella Is Feathering Peacock’s Sports Nest

Peacock Classic
(Image credit: Peacock )

Streaming service Peacock tonight (December 2) debuts its inaugural Peacock Classic game between the 2021 NCAA men’s college basketball finalists — No.6 Baylor and No. 14 Gonzaga — as it continues its live Spanish-language coverage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament alongside sister NBCUniversal broadcast service Telemundo. 

The events are part of an ever-expanding lineup of live sports programming the streaming service features, including Premier League soccer games, simulcasts of NBC’s NFL Sunday Night Football telecasts and, beginning next year, Big Ten College football and basketball games.

Newly named Peacock Sports and NBC Sports programming president Rick Cordella spoke to Multichannel News about Peacock’s sports strategy, including tonight’s Peacock Classic college basketball event, as well as the streaming service's World Cup performance, which has accounted for a record 26% of Telemundo’s total viewership for the tournament through November 26, according to NBC Sports.

Peacock’s Nov. 26 Argentina-Mexico match was the most streamed FIFA World Cup match in US media history regardless of language, averaging more than 2 million viewers, according to NBC Sports. 

Overall through the first seven days of  the tournament, NBC Sports is averaging  2.57 million viewers across Telemundo, Peacock and Telemundo streaming platforms, which is up 24% compared to the 2018 World Cup tournament, according to Nielsen. 

An edited version of the interview appears below: 

MCN: How did the inaugural Peacock Classic event come about and how does it fit into NBC Sports’ strategy for airing exclusive, live sports content on the streaming service?

Rick Cordella NBC Sports

(Image credit: NBC Sports)

Rick Cordella: It came to us as an opportunity. Sports has been an anchor of the Peacock service, and we have one of the widest and deepest sports portfolios of a streamer out there. That includes all of the simulcasts of games we have to offer, the exclusivity of the Premier League, what we're currently doing with the World Cup, what we have for golf, the WWE and all the other various sports. This past summer we completed a Big 10 rights agreement, and with that deal, we're going to have eight or nine football games exclusively on Peacock and another 15 or so on NBC, which will be simulcast on Peacock, as well as 35-plus men's basketball games from the Big 10 in the 2023-24 season. So as we’re getting into college basketball anyway, the [Peacock Classic] is an opportunity for us with Baylor and Gonzaga attached to it. The game also has a NIL (name, image and likeness) component, where the players will promote the game or the service overall. So we're experimenting and we'll see how it goes. I'm excited and hopefully, it’ll be a good game tonight. 

MCN: Is the Peacock Classic franchise something that you’re looking to continue annually? 

RC: For sure. We’re certainly a data-driven organization — if we see the data tonight that says this performed well in terms of driving subscribers, engagement and sponsorship, that’s something we would want to repeat. 

MCN: Do you see college sports content as a driver to bring in younger viewers to Peacock?

RC: Yes. The way I look at it, where the intensity of viewership is high, that's the content that typically resonates on the streamer. Certainly, there’s some lean-back content that’s on broadcast TV that has high numbers, but when you have a World Cup, Premier League or, in this case, college basketball, the fans of those teams and schools are really into the games. Just look at the passion every Saturday afternoon in any given stadium in America — people are really into it. That’s the kind of content we want to bring to Peacock.

MCN: Tonight’s game comes right in the middle of Telemundo’s Spanish-language coverage of the World Cup, which is streaming on Peacock. How have the games performed on Peacock through the first round of the tournament? 

RC: It’s doing remarkably well for us — beyond our expectations, honestly. I think there’s an opportunity here to attract a younger audience that may exist outside of pay TV that didn't have access to this content. Peacock is effectively the exclusive (direct-to-consumer) deliverer of the World Cup, so I think we’re taking advantage of that to a certain degree. We’re seeing great numbers. ■  

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.