Comcast owns a third of Hulu, with Disney as the other two-thirds partner. February 11th was the deadline for Comcast to inform Disney if the company wanted to pull their popular shows from the service. If NBC/Universal removes the TV shows, they will disappear from Hulu in Fall 2022. If the option is not exercised, the shows would stay on Hulu until 2024 or later. The original ownership agreement stated that Comcast could require Disney to buy out their stake in Hulu by 2024.
Shows that now stream on Hulu the day after the original broadcast include The Voice, Saturday Night Live, and American Auto. Once removed from Hulu, these shows would be offered exclusively on Peacock. Others, like New Amsterdam and This is Us would also be pulled by Fall 2022 however, both of these shows are currently in their final season. 30 Rock and Parenthood are not part of the same licensing deal as the new shows that may be departing and could remain on Hulu.
The decision isn’t as clear-cut as when they took The Office back from Netflix. Under the original agreement, Comcast can require Disney to buy them out before 2024. Removing these popular shows could lower the valuation of Comcast’s stake in Hulu.
Still, NBCUniversal seems eager to beef up Peacock’s content offering. According to the Wall Street Journal, NBCUniversal’s CEO Jeff Shell made his intentions clear on the company’s earnings call in January. He said, “Obviously, much of our strong NBC content premieres on Hulu, and over time we’d like to bring that back to Peacock.”
This comment aligns with a commitment to streaming that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts made last June. Peacock needs exclusive content to build its paid subscriber base. Peacock has three tiers. Two are paid subscriptions— the premium tier for $10 per month and an ad-supported tier that includes the original programming for $5 per month. Comcast and live TV subscribers can access Peacock for free. There are over 42 million users that are signed up for Peacock, but only 9 million paid subscribers.
Part of the plan to add value to Peacock was to double the content creation budget to 3 billion dollars in 2022. While that may sound like a substantial sum, it pales by comparison to Netflix’s 17 billion dollar budget. The company is also trying to set up Peacock as a live sports service, as seen by the exclusive streaming of the Olympics and the Super Bowl. Peacock also has the streaming rights to World Wrestling Entertainment events like WrestleMania.
While Apple TV+ has been exploring offering MLB games, the New York Post reported that MLB was in “serious talks” with NBC Sports about the network broadcasting games that would be streamed on Peacock. It’s expected that Apple TV+ may need to share streaming with Peacock, with each company airing games on specified days of the week.
Comcast may need to pull their NBC programming from other services to make Peacock attractive to new subscribers, but it’s a troubling trend. Cord cutters will need to add another paid subscription to continue streaming all the content they want.