Will NBCU Clip Peacock’s Wings By Cooping Up Marketing?

Peacock Marketing
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock has taken a very different strategic tack to marketing than the other premium streaming services that launched within the last 12 months.

Exclusive VIP analysis of data from  media and advertising measurement firm iSpot uncovered that while other streamers spent big on off-network promos, which pertains to spots that run on channels not owned by the company, NBCU barely spent anything at all. While Apple spent $54 million in the three-month span before the launch of Apple TV+, NBCU spent just $30,000 in the same time period.

Instead, Peacock has relied on on-network promos, such as the below. These promos, appearing across brands within the NBCUniversal umbrella, do not incur a cost.

But iSpot estimated how much it would cost to run the same volume of ads if an external network was buying. Compared to the two other leading streaming services who have the luxury of having other TV networks with which to synergize on marketing, Peacock amassed an estimated spend of $25 million for collaborative promos, far ahead of what HBO Max ($4.89m) and Disney+ ($4m) were estimated to have spent prior to release month.

This is part of what NBCU dubs Symphony Marketing, taking full use of NBCU’s wide television portfolio, ranging across network TV, news, sports, general entertainment, science fiction and unscripted. By doing so, Peacock marketing execs confirmed to VIP, they are able to target different groups of fans with ads targeted to their interests: a promo for a Dale Earnhardt Jr. show during a NASCAR race on NBCSN, “Brave New World” during USA Network programming, and information on the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot on Syfy.

In one sense, this approach is reaping dividends. iSpot estimates that Peacock has served up more ads than Disney+, HBO Max, and Quibi and is second only to what Apple TV+ achieved. 

Such an approach is not without its risks, however. By focusing so much attention on NBCUniversal viewers, those who don’t watch the conglomerate’s channels are at risk of being unaware of the new service when it launches. That said, Peacock execs told VIP that in the immediate weeks prior to, and after, the service launch, promos will run on rival networks. 

Given that Peacock has a free tier, accessible to everyone, bottling up the awareness-building blast for the time immediately prior to launch runs the risk of not reaching everyone who may sample the service in the initial weeks, decreasing the number of brand evangelists who supplement paid marketing costs.

Another risk is that of cannibalizing the NBCU TV audience. Concentrating Peacock marketing efforts on viewers of the conglomerate’s channels could yield a zero-sum game in which Peacock’s new audience is substituting viewing time that would have otherwise been spent watching, for example, Bravo or Syfy. Such is the collateral damage when traditional media is forced to disrupt itself.

But Peacock marketing execs told VIP that they are confident that cannibalization won’t happen. They anticipate growing awareness among NBCU viewers will lead to viewers extending the amount of time they spend in the company’s footprint.

Should this approach pay off for Peacock, ViacomCBS would do well to ape this strategy for its 2021 enhanced reboot of CBS All Access. Although a slightly different offering (Peacock includes free and premium options within the one app; ViacomCBS keeps them distinct) ViacomCBS has a wide range of TV networks that could see viewers subject to a similar on-air blitz.

Time will tell if the focus on Symphony pays off for Peacock, or has to be supplemented with more ads on rival networks in order to boost total viewers. There’s something to be said though for utilizing available resources at low (or no) cost; it will undoubtedly please shareholders. If Peacock meets audience targets, and sees higher audiences than rival services who spent considerably more on marketing, expect this bird to strut.