×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Comcast Considers NBC Sky News Channel as NBCUniversal Revs Streaming Strategy

Comcast is considering the launch of a news channel that would draw from the resources of NBC News and Sky News.

Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts dropped that tidbit during his remarks Thursday morning on the cable giant’s first quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke also spoke enthusiastically about NBCU’s progress on its plan to launch an advertising-supported streaming platform.

“We look at this as a way to grow our company and power our company for decades to come,” Burke said of the streaming service that he said is targeted to debut this time next year.

Reps for NBC News declined to elaborate on the news channel discussions referenced by Roberts. “We’re exploring launching a global NBC Sky news channel later this year,” Roberts said.

Roberts cited Comcast’s focus on building up its direct-to-consumer capabilities in four key markets: The U.S., U.K., Germany and Italy, now that it has greatly expanded its footprint outside the U.S. with the acquisition of Sky last year. Roberts said those markets represent 15% of the world’s broadband and video customers but some 50% of pay-TV revenues.

“That’s where the best customers reside,” Roberts said. “You want content opportunities in those countries.”

Roberts and Comcast Cable chief Dave Watson made it clear in their remarks that the traditional cable side of Comcast is increasingly focused on wooing high-margin broadband customers. For the first quarter, Comcast reported a net loss of 121,000 video customers and a net addition of 375,000 broadband customers.

“The engine of growth for cable is broadband,” Roberts said. The consumer migration to on-demand streaming platforms will only magnify the importance of cable’s ability to deliver speedy broadband and WiFi to consumers who are using more and more high-speed internet services. Broadband usage grew some 34% year-over-year among Comcast’s residential customers, Roberts noted.

“Video over the internet is more friend than foe,” Roberts said, calling the seemingly limitless demand for streaming and high-speed internet connectivity “the sweet spot of where this company is going to grow.”

Roberts emphasized Comcast’s heft as a buyer and producer of content. He said the company spends $24 billion annually to “purchase and produce” entertainment, sports and news content for NBCUniversal and Sky.

“As the streaming eco-system evolves, (the market) leans toward the wonderful strengths across all of Comcast,” Roberts said.

Burke didn’t offer too much in the way of details about NBCU’s ad-supported streaming platform other than to say that “hundreds of people are working on rights and technology” to support the 2020 launch. Former NBCU Cable chief Bonnie Hammer was dispatched to head the effort in January.

Burke said he was not concerned about NBCU being late to enter the arena as Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia also rev up streaming platforms. “We think it’s very, very early innings,” Burke said. “In some ways its reminiscent of cable in the 1970s and ’80s.”

Burke said NBCU’s focus is on grabbing viewers quickly with a free service to launch first in the U.S. followed by the U.K. “We think that’s the way to get to real scale quickly and achieve profitability more quickly,” he said. “We think there is plenty of room for multiple companies and different strategies.”

Among other highlights from the hourlong call:

Roberts refused to tip Comcast’s hand on plans for its 30% stake in Hulu. Disney became the majority owner of Hulu last month after absorbing 21st Century Fox. AT&T sold its 9.5% interest in Hulu back to the joint venture — which now consists of Disney and NBCUniversal — earlier this month. “It’s really valuable,” Roberts said of Hulu. “We’re glad we own a large piece of it.”

Burke said NBCUniversal saw the predicted slowing of growth on the virtual MVPD market, which helped offset some of the cord-cutting pain for cable programmers in recent quarters. Churn for the new entrants is increasing as promotional pricing discounts end. The rate of traditional MVPD erosion was “nothing really dramatic” in the first quarter, he added.

Burke also gave a bullish outlook for the coming upfront advance advertising sales for the 2019-2020 TV season. For one, the U.S. economy is generally strong, as evidenced by scatter market pricing that has been consistently 30%-40% ahead of last year’s upfront pricing. “The reality is there are more and more places to spend on digital. But TV remains a platform for big companies that want to change people’s brand perceptions in a way that you just can’t find on the internet,” Burke said.

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content