Stalled negotiations between Roku and NBCUniversal over adding NBC’s Peacock service to the streaming platform has compelled Comcast to make a drastic decision.
Since Peacock launched on July 15, Roku has not added the streaming service to its lineup. In an effort to force Roku to change that decision, Comcast — which owns NBCUniversal — is threatening to pull all NBC channels from Roku by midnight Friday.
[UPDATE: Roku and NBCUniversal have reached an agreement on carrying Peacock. An official announcement will be made soon.]
That constitutes a total of 46 apps available for the platform including NBC, USA Network, Bravo, E!, Syfy, and most importantly for sports fans, NBC Sports, which carries Sunday Night Football, Stanley Cup Playoffs, Premier League soccer, PGA Tour, NASCAR, Triple Crown races, and the French Open.
Also among those 46 channels are 23 affiliated with Telemundo. Telemundo Deportes carries plenty of Premier League programming, boxing, Olympic sports, and Spanish-language telecasts of Sunday Night Football.
— Kirby Grines (@kirbygrines) September 18, 2020
Sports programming on Peacock includes Premier League soccer, U.S. Open championships, sports talk programming such as PFT Live, The Dan Patrick Show, The Rich Eisen Show, Brother From Another (with Michael Smith and Michael Holley), and an upcoming NFL wild-card playoff game, in addition to documentaries.
The basis of the dispute between Roku and NBCUniversal is the service’s demand for a cut of advertising revenues from apps carried on the platform. Roku is asking for 30 percent of ad inventory and 20 percent of subscription costs from standalone streaming services, a demand that has also prevented HBO Max from being added to Roku. (NBCUniversal prefers a number closer to 15 percent of ad inventory, according to CNBC.)
As could be expected, each side is trying to win the favor of consumers affected by this dispute. In a message to its customers, Roku said NBC’s channels “represent a very small number of streaming hours on our platform, [but] we believe they are convenient to people who use them, especially when so many Americans are at home.”
An NBCUniversal spokesperson issued the following statement to Awful Announcing:
“We are disappointed Roku is removing its users’ free access to NBCUniversal programming – 11 network apps, 12 NBC Owned Station apps, 23 Telemundo Owned Station apps – and continues to block access to the only free premium streaming service available in the market, Peacock. Roku’s unreasonable demands ultimately hurt both their consumers and their consumer equipment partners to whom they’ve promised access to all apps in the marketplace.”
Roku is one of the top platforms for streaming programming and is included in many smart televisions. That has left many users (including the guy writing this article) frustrated by Peacock and HBO Max not being available to watch on their televisions, especially when Roku’s demands seem rather high.
Will Comcast affect this carriage dispute by pulling its programming in an attempt to get Peacock added to Roku? It’s certainly an aggressive move that could upset many consumers and thus alter Roku’s negotiating stance.