The two companies had battled over the past 24 hours in an escalation of tensions that had continued dutring months of fruitless, on-and-off negotiations. Early Friday morning, word came that there could be an impasse that would take NBCU apps off Roku, which reaches 43 million users in the U.S. By the afternoon, things were looking up.
Friction over carriage revolved around advertising inventory. Roku commonly secures 30% of inventory from its content partners, which it often then re-sells. NBCU wanted to come in well below that mark initially, people familiar with the talks told Deadline, creating the tangle. Peacock launched in April on Comcast systems and nationally in July.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Comcast that will bring Peacock to Roku customers and maintains access to NBCU’s TV Everywhere apps,” a Roku spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to offering these new options to consumers under an expanded, mutually beneficial relationship between our companies that includes adding NBC content to The Roku Channel and a meaningful partnership around advertising.”
NBCU said in a statement, “We are pleased Roku recognizes the value in making NBCUniversal’s incredible family of apps and programming, including Peacock, available to all of their users across the country. More than 15 million people signed up for Peacock since its national launch in July and we are thrilled millions more will now be able to access and enjoy Peacock along with other NBCUniversal apps on their favorite Roku devices. Roku’s incredible reach will not only help us ensure Peacock is available to our fans wherever they consume video but continue to expand NBCUniversal’s unrivaled digital presence across platforms.”
TV Everywhere, which began about a decade ago, was an initiative by pay-TV programmers and operators designed to stem the flow of viewers toward newer services like Netflix. In order to satisfy IP owners, TV Everywhere apps were outfitted with stringent authentication requirements, meaning pay-TV subscribers often had to log back into apps even though they pay full freight for their TV packages. The user experience paled next to the more sophisticated ones on many subscription services, and TV Everywhere did not reach the dominant place in the ecosystem its creators envisioned. Even so, the arrival of Peacock will likely mean a gradual pullback from TV Everywhere, but a blackout on Roku would have meant information (and viewership info)
While subscription revenue is valuable to Peacock, advertising is its bedrock as it was designed to leverage the existing ad expertise of NBCU. Peacock has limited ad breaks to five minutes per hour, making inventory scarce. The streaming effort is the strategic centerpiece at NBCU and has driven a large-scale reorganization of the company in recent months.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said this week Peacock has attracted 15 million sign-ups thus far, with many likely drawn to the free offering as free streaming gains traction in the overall marketplace.
The battle between NBCU and Roku is not an isolated one. HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s just-launched service, remains dark on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Over the past year, five multi-billion-dollar new streamers have entered the crowded marketplace, and distribution has gotten complicated. As much as new streaming hopefuls want to control the consumer experience — and valuable data — third parties like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Google and Apple play a big role in getting streaming apps off the ground.