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NBCUniversal Streaming Service to Launch in April, Sky to Expand Original Content

Comcast units are double down on the content and streaming wars as NBCUniversal plans to launch its advertising-supported streaming platform in April and Sky is vowing to double the volume of original content it delivers with an emphasis on European material.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke and Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch talked up the company’s content options during Comcast’s second quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

Burke said NBCU has more than 500 people working on the NBCUniversal streaming platform. The venture will use the same digital infrastructure that supports Sky’s Now streaming platform in Europe, Burke said.

“We believe we have a very innovative way of coming to the market that is very different than anything else and has very attractive financial aspects,” Burke said.

NBCU recently struck a deal to scoop up exclusive streaming rights to “The Office” as a marquee property for the streaming service, although it will not return to NBCU from Netflix until 2021. Burke noted that Nielsen research shows that viewership of “Office” episodes amounts to 5% of all Netflix volume. The comedy series that aired on NBC from 2005 to 2013 is “tied to the DNA” of NBC, Burke said. “We see ‘The Office’ as one of the tentpole programs on our platforms.”

Darroch pointed to the success of Sky’s co-production with HBO on the miniseries “Chernobyl” as an example of how strong content can travel widely. The newly launched Sky Studios production entity is a key focus for the satcaster.

Darroch sees an opportunity to “tell European stories at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” he said.  “There’s a real spot for us to dive into now.” He said that Sky’s originals push would eventually “displace” some of its acquired programming expenditures.

Burke said NBCUniversal is also investing in originals for its streaming platform, which will be advertising supported and available for free to those who have a traditional MVPD subscription or for a monthly fee. Burke said there was a focus on “originals tied to libraries we currently own” in developing fresh content for the service, such as the plan to greenlight a third season of canceled NBC sitcom “A.P. Bio.” He also pointed again to Netflix as a guide, asserting that acquired programming still accounts for around 80% of Netflix’s streaming volume.

“We are spending money on originals,” Burke said. “I would expect the vast majority of consumption in the beginning would be (of) acquired programs.”

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