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“We looked and said, ‘Let’s do something different than in a very increasingly crowded field’ and ‘what is our fastest way to get to profitability and do so with the least amount of investment?’ And laying that on top of existing relationships is one way to do that,” Roberts told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York City during a session that was webcast.
He said NBCUniversal’s Peacock would be offered to Comcast’s existing U.S. customers for free, especially in the traditional cable TV space, in part to retain their loyalty in a cord-cutting era. Consumers who don’t want ads or who have no Comcast subscription will be able to pay for the service.
“If you do that, advertising with a light ad load, with the premium content that will be on this network, this will be unlike any advertising inventory available,” Roberts told the investors conference.
NBCUniversal earlier this week unveiled Peacock’s initial programming lineup and strategy. The ad-supported, direct-to-consumer platform will launch in April 2020 underpinned by exclusive library titles like The Office, Parks and Recreation and possibly the Olympics, Roberts said.
He added that advanced advertising will be key to Peacock as a direct-to-consumer offering set to battle Netflix, Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia in the streaming space. To launch Peacock, Comcast will bring home major licensed titles in a shifting streaming landscape, including from Netflix.
But Roberts forecast that any content claw back will not greatly impact his company’s bottom line: “I don’t believe it’s going to materially affect Comcast and our ability to grow. We can make this investment, it can be significant, but not in a way that will retard NBC from the growth we’ve been able to enjoy,” he argued.
Peacock will take center stage during NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics in 2020 when the entire NBCUniversal fold will get behind the platform with a massive marketing push promoting the service, with originals set to launch after the Games.
Roberts also touted the benefits of his $39 billion takeover of European pay TV giant Sky, which he called a “complicated” acquisition. “I feel so much better about Sky than in that moment of time when we thought do it or don’t, given what was going on,” he said.
Sky is also migrating technology, programming and marketing talent to the U.S. to help Comcast build out its own domestic business. Roberts also said he felt no need for other international acquisitions as he called Sky a “unique opportunity.”
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