In a significant shift from the way it handled last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, NBCU will deliver live competition in 15 sports on Peacock, in addition to the opening and closing ceremonies. The Games are scheduled to run from February 2 to 20. Peacock’s premium tier is available at no additional charge for many customers of pay-TV and broadband services like Comcast Xfinity and Cox Contour. Others pay $5 a month for premium access, or $10 for an ad-free version.
The company said NBCU’s broadcast plans and scheduling will be revealed at a later date. Traditionally, even through last summer, preserving the primacy of the broadcast and cable linear windows was a key strategic priority for NBCU, which is entering its fourth decade of exclusive Olympics rights. With advertising a bedrock component of Peacock, even on its premium tier, the move makes sense.
In a press release, NBCU said its goal was to establish Peacock as a “comprehensive Olympics destination for all live action and catch-up on-demand viewing.” Along with the live events and opening and closing nights, Peacock will have full replays of all competition as soon as it concludes, along with studio programming, medal ceremonies and other programming. In presenting the Tokyo Games last summer, the company encountered resistance and confusion among consumers, who turned to Peacock (whose launch had long been tied to the Olympics) but found only limited live coverage. While the overall broadcast and streaming offering was prodigious, at a record 7,000-plus total hours, it was spotty on Peacock, as executives privately conceded.
NBCU is looking to ramp up subscriber levels and viewership of Peacock, which is one of the streaming sector’s many new entrants, alongside Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max, among others. Comcast, NBCU’s parent company, has indicated the streaming service, which launched in mid-2020, is ahead of internal projections. But the company did not include any updated statistics on Peacock in its most recent quarterly earnings report. (The next quarterly numbers come out later this month.) As of the most recent disclosure, Peacock had 52 million sign-ups and 20 million active users. Two years ago, as it got ready to enter the streaming race, NBCU said it expected to have 30 million to 35 million active users by 2025, with the service breaking even by 2024.
Along the way, as the company navigated major production challenges due to Covid, it added a significant amount of live sports. Premier League soccer, with nearly 175 exclusive matches, has been a top draw for Peacock Premium, as has the WWE Network, which was integrated last spring.
“As the streaming destination of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Peacock will offer the ultimate fan experience all in one place,” Peacock President Kelly Campbell said in the official announcement. “From every live event and gold medal moment to exclusive daily shows, channels and original documentaries, viewers will be able to easily catch-up and keep up on all the action throughout the Games with our comprehensive Olympics hub on Peacock.”
Molly Solomon, executive producer of NBC Olympics & Paralympics, said the approach to Beijing “provides the American audience with a dynamic, easy-to-use Olympic viewing hub where not a single moment, live or on-demand, will be missed.”
Broadcast and streaming coverage will spotlight U.S. Olympians like snowboarder Shaun White and Chloe Kim, skier Mikaela Shiffrin, figure skater Nathan Chen and speed skater Erin Jackson. But the Beijing Games have operated under a cloud of negative perception in recent months. As the Chinese government continues to pursue an extreme, “Covid zero” approach to fighting the pandemic, the National Hockey League opted out of the Games, for fear that players and coaches could potentially wind up having to quarantine in China for an extended period.
Along with the Covid threat, which could derail athletes’ years-long dreams of competing, a diplomatic boycott has been enacted in advance of the event by the U.S. Along with other countries, it is taking the step as a result of China’s human rights record.
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