US media giant NBCUniversal is discussing the prospect of partnering with a local media company as it tries to decide the best way to bring its streaming service Peacock into the market.
The Comcast-controlled entertainment company, known for programs such as Gangs of London, I Hate Suzie, Brave New World and more recently The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reboot, does not have a local presence and its contract with streaming service Stan expires in less than a year, though there is an option to extend the deal for a further 12 months.
Multiple industry sources who spoke anonymously because talks are confidential, said Seven West Media, Foxtel and Nine Entertainment Co (which owns Stan and this masthead) are already discussing ways to partner with NBCUniversal once that deal expires, to avoid the prospect of it entering the market on its own.
Foxtel, Seven and Nine were approached for comment. NBCUniversal declined to comment.
The potential arrival of Peacock is significant as it could dramatically alter the state of Australia’s local streaming landscape. Stan and Foxtel both rely on content from NBCUniversal and any deal with Seven or ViacomCBS could lead to the loss of programming that attracts new and existing subscribers.
The entrance of other streaming players such as Disney+ and Paramount+ has already had an impact on Stan and Foxtel, which have previously relied on content from studios to drive subscriber growth. International exclusivity deals – such as the agreement struck between Netflix and Sony for popular US sitcom Seinfeld – have affected what content is available on various services. Both players have turned their attention to investing in local production to reduce reliance on international licencing deals.
NBCUniversal has form when it comes to joint-ventures. In Europe, NBCUniversal is planning to align itself with ViacomCBS through the launch of new service called SkyShowtime that will launch early next year. Like WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and ViacomCBS’ Showtime, NBCUniversal is widely considered one of the major players in the international streaming battle. But the dilemma it faces is that Australia’s streaming landscape is already cluttered. In addition to local players Foxtel (and Binge) and Stan, other international services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Paramount+ have already established a presence.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock was filed on the local trademark register last March, in what was a considered a sign of its long-term plans for Australia. Multiple industry sources have said NBCUniversal is not interested in securing another licensing deal in this market. This means that Stan faces the prospect of losing content when its deal expires next year (or the year after, if the deal is extended).
The sources said Nine (which owns Stan), Foxtel and Seven are all in informal talks with NBCUniversal about what a joint-venture partnership might look like. Should it do a deal with Seven, it would give the Kerry Stokes-controlled broadcaster a much-desired entrance into the streaming market.
For Foxtel and Stan, a partnership would shore up international content in the long-term and reduce the risk of losing market share to another streaming player. But ViacomCBS runs Paramount+ in Australia, and there is also a possibility NBCUniversal could introduce a similar type of arrangement locally to what has occurred in Europe.
Partnering with established players could be beneficial to NBCUniversal, as it allows it to establish a presence but reduces the risk of financial loss. It would also mean it would not have to establish a local sales team.
In other markets, Peacock runs three tiers of service: free, premium, and premium plus. The free and premium tiers are advertising-supported.
NBCUniversal’s deal includes content from Peacock, Sky Studios (which parent company Comcast bought in 2018) and traditional NBCU programs, making it the largest deal in terms of volume. Sky Studios, which was behind Chernobyl, has invested a large amount of money in original programming since 2019 and has established a major production studio an effort to become the Hollywood of England. NBCU programs include The Office (US), Parks & Recreation and reality series like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
But it is not the only player that could reshape Australia’s streaming landscape. The launch of Discovery Plus, which is owned by Discovery (which plans to merge with HBO owner WarnerMedia), was flagged in August when Optus revealed its new streaming service aggregator, SubHub.
And WarnerMedia has not decided on long-term plans for HBO Max, which has a deal with Foxtel and Binge that expires in about two years. It could easily fold HBO Max programs into Discovery Plus if an international merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery goes ahead. The Sydney Morning Herald