A programming agreement that gives The Walt Disney Co.’s streaming service Hulu access to popular programming from Comcast’s NBCUniversal has been terminated, a spokesperson for NBCUniversal confirmed.
Instead of appearing on Hulu the day after they air on NBC, shows like This Is Us, The Voice and Saturday Night Live will be available on Peacock, the Comcast streaming platform that competes with Hulu.
NBCU provided no additional details of its plans. But having those shows on Peacock will give the NBCU service a much-needed boost.
Hulu said it expected that it would be losing NBC's programming.
“With the proliferation of streaming services entering the marketplace, we have long anticipated changes to our third-party content offering and over the past few years have increased our investment in original content, including popular and award-nominated titles like Only Murders in the Building, Dopesick, Reservation Dogs, How I Met Your Father, and the Academy Award-nominated Summer of Soul," a Hulu spokesperson said. "As a leading destination for breakthrough storytelling, we continue to transform Hulu into an exclusive home for stories from across The Walt Disney Company and beyond to bring our viewers even more premium content led by Hulu Originals and next-day television programming.”
Hulu still has deals for some movies and series from the NBC catalog that run for several more years. It recently added two international series from NBCU, Blood and Creamerie.
With NBC less involved, Disney will have more control over Hulu's ad inventory.
Hulu was originally formed as a joint venture among NBCUniversal, Disney and Fox, with Time Warner originally owning a stake. The object was to create a platform for streaming television to compete with Netflix. Having network programming the day after they aired was a major feature for Hulu.
When Comcast bought NBCUniversal, the cable company wasn’t a big fan of streaming, which was driving cord cutting. When Disney acquired Fox, it gained a controlling interest in Hulu. Comcast has a contractual ability to sell its stake in Hulu to Disney, but the two companies are far apart on the price.
As more consumers adopt streaming video, media companies have been pivoting to streaming. They’ve also been reacquiring the rights to stream shows they produced that were previously sold off to other distributors.
For example, NBCU grabbed the rights to The Office, which was one of the most popular streaming shows when it was with Netflix. Similarly Paramount has grabbed up South Park and WarnerMedia snatched Friends for HBO Max.
On a recent earnings calls Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and other company executives have excused Peacock’s relatively slow subscriber growth because it doesn’t have full access to NBCU’s best programing.
"So obviously, much of our strong NBC content, as Brian mentioned, premieres on Hulu. And over time, we'd like to bring that back to Peacock,” NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said on the the call.
In its last earning report, Comcast said that Peacock lost $1.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to lose $2.5 billion in 2022.
But the company is planning to increase spending on programming for Peacock to $3 billion from $1.5 billion.
NBCU has also viewed sports as a way to boost Peacock. Peacock recently streamed the Olympics and the Super Bowl. NBC Sports is also reportedly talking to Major League Baseball about putting games on Peacock when and if a baseball season starts. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.