Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC recently offered details about its intentions to jump on the video streaming bandwagon through Peacock, a platform that will feature over 15,000 hours of content when it arrives next April. Peacock will be offered as a free ad-supported service for Comcast's U.S. customers, with paid tiers for ad-free viewing and non-Comcast subscribers.
Comcast hasn't revealed any prices yet, but it stated that Peacock will be the exclusive streaming platform for The Office (which will leave Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) in 2021), Parks and Recreation, and reboots and revivals of classic shows like Saved by the Bell, Battlestar Galactica, and Punky Brewster. It will also offer access to classic NBC shows like 30 Rock, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Saturday Night Live, and its catalog of Universal movies.
Comcast's move into the streaming market isn't surprising, since most of its media rivals are implementing similar strategies. However, Peacock's launch seems shoddily conceived for three simple reasons.
1. The awful name
Unlike Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Disney (NYSE:DIS), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which branded their video services clearly by adding a "plus" or "video" to their names, NBC decided to name its entire service after its six-decade-old logo.
The lack of "NBC" or "Universal" in its name is confusing enough, but the "Peacock" brand is already being widely roasted across social media for sharing a name with Katy Perry's 2010 song -- which was loaded with racy double entendres. I'm pretty sure that's not the response NBC's marketing team was looking for.
2. Arriving late to the market
Netflix has 158.8 million viewers in the U.S., according to eMarketer. It's followed by Amazon, with 96.5 million; Disney's Hulu, with 75.8 million; and AT&T's (NYSE:T) HBO Now, with 23.1 million viewers. Each of these market leaders has distinct advantages.
Netflix has a first mover's advantage in the market. Amazon offers Prime Video as a perk for Prime subscribers, which topped 100 million in the U.S. at the end of 2018, according to CIRP.
Disney will bundle Hulu with Disney+ and ESPN+ in a $13-per-month package this November, and AT&T plans to bundle its HBO and WarnerMedia content together in HBO Max next spring. Apple will also launch Apple TV+ this November.
By the time Comcast finally launches Peacock, the market will be even more saturated with rivals, all of which will be launching high-budget original shows to lock in subscribers. It's hard to see Peacock standing out in that crowded market.
3. A lack of compelling content
Peacock's lineup of shows and movies looks decent, but it arguably lacks the punch of Disney's lineup of original Marvel and Star Wars shows, Amazon's $1 billion Lord of the Rings series, and Apple TV+'s lineup of original content from stars like Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
NBC doesn't even hold the streaming rights to Friends, which AT&T's WarnerMedia recently outbid from Netflix in a $425 million five-year deal. NBC also doesn't hold the streaming rights to Seinfeld, which were claimed by Netflix for over $500 million for five years.
The lack of those two classic NBC comedies, which would attract a lot of nostalgic Gen X viewers, would likely throttle Peacock's growth. To make matters worse, WarnerMedia also recently secured the exclusive streaming rights to The Big Bang Theory for an undisclosed price.
What does this mean for investors?
NBCUniversal's revenue fell 7% annually during the first half of 2019. The unit, which accounted for 40% of Comcast's sales, struggled with a 17% drop in broadcast TV revenue and a 4% decline in its cable revenue.
That decline was mainly caused by tough year-over-year comparisons to the Olympics and Super Bowl last year. Excluding those prior-year gains, its broadcast revenue improved 4%, and its cable revenue rose 3%.
Those numbers aren't bad, but its growth could decelerate as more viewers cut their cords and get locked in by single streaming platforms. Moreover, AT&T, which competes against Comcast in the ISP market, is bundling its streaming services with its internet plans.
To counter those headwinds, Comcast is leveraging its position as one of the top ISPs in the U.S. to launch Peacock as a free bonus for its subscribers. That's the same reason it recently started offering Xfinity Flex, a streaming platform for over 10,000 movies and shows which previously cost $5 a month, as a free bonus for its internet subscribers. Flex will also support Peacock when it arrives next year.
Will playing defense be enough?
Peacock is more of a defensive play for Comcast instead of an offensive move aimed at Netflix, Amazon, Apple, or Disney. However, playing defense might not be enough to keep viewers from tuning out -- especially with its awkward branding, late arrival, and lack of compelling exclusive or original content.