Is Comcast Finally Giving Up on Pay TV by Putting NBC Affiliates on Peacock?

Peacock Adds NBC Affiliates
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal announced earlier this week that it would soon live-stream local news, network shows and syndicated programming from 210 NBC affiliates on its $9.99-a-month Peacock Premium Plus service. 

The move didn't surprise many video industry watchers. Starting with Paramount Plus' launch early last year, Paramount Global has, after all, live-streamed programming from CBS affiliates onto the platform's premium $9.99 tier.

In its announcement, NBCU didn't discuss the complexity involved with convincing 210 of its affiliates, all of which still rely heavily on broadcast retransmission fees from pay TV operators, to offer their wares to a direct-to-consumer streaming service starting Nov. 30. 

But the question surfaces ... is Comcast, which just reported a third-quarter EBITDA loss of $614 million on its direct-to-consumer building efforts, surrendering to the void in regard to the pay TV ecosystem?

Suffice it to say the Peacock arrangement will come up every time these NBC stations and their relevant groups negotiate new retrans fee arrangements with pay TV operators. The impact will then trickle up to NBCU's reverse retrans compensation from these stations, a figure that exceeds $1 billion annually now. 

As for the cable TV unit operated by parent company Comcast, the move gives Xfinity TV's dwindling customer base one more reason to cut the cord at a time when its pay TV subscriber base is now eroding at a pace exceeding 10.5% a year

The counterpoint: NBCU just disclosed that paid Peacock users have only now finally exceeded the 15 million threshold more than two years after launch. Comcast and NBCU have never bisected data on how many subscribers pay $9.99 for the commercial-free Peacock Premium Plus tier vs. the $4.99 Peacock Premium offering, but it's generally assumed that the vast majority of users are attached to the less expensive plan. 

Will this be an enticement for streaming customers to sign up for Peacock ... and for Premium users to upgrade to Premium Plus? Again, debatable. 

Both paid Peacock tiers already have ample on-demand access to NBC shows the day after they air on the network. And since last year, local news from NBC owned-and-operated stations has been accessible to Peacock uses, too. 

Conversely, outside of an over-the-air antenna, the $9.99 Peacock Premium Plus service is the least expensive way to obtain access to your local NBC station. Consider that just last week, Sling TV -- the cheapest semi-robust pay TV service -- upped its monthly price to $40. ■

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!