Did Steve Burke Just Use NBC Holiday Card to Tease New OTT Service?

“Maybe, just maybe, next year we will announce our plan for OTT,” NBCU chief wrote to staffers

NBCUniversal's Steve Burke
Joan E. Solsman

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke may have just used an unconventional method to tease a new streaming service: The company holiday card.

A line in a holiday greeting sent to NBCU staff, which the company confirmed to TheWrap, Burke wrote (or, more accurately, rhymed): “While you all go off to relax, swim or ski. Maybe, just maybe, next year we will announce our plan for OTT.” The company would not comment any further on if that meant that NBCU or its parent company, Comcast, is planning to launch a streaming service of its own.

Comcast has yet to announce any kind of streaming plans, despite rival companies, including WarnerMedia and Disney, readying to offer their own direct-to-consumer product next year. Currently, Comcast owns 30 percent of Hulu, which will be majority owned by Disney once it closes its Fox acquisition. Sky, the European pay-TV company which Comcast won the bidding for, launched its own streaming product earlier this year.

There has been some speculation that Comcast would sell its stake in Hulu to Disney, especially if Disney uses Hulu to help funnel subscribers into ESPN+ or the upcoming Disney+. Comcast may not want to help fund its own competition, though analysts who TheWrap spoke with previously argued that the data Comcast would get on Hulu consumers is valuable enough to stay on as a minority shareholder — as long as Hulu isn’t burning a hole in its wallet.

Streaming video has become the next gold rush for media companies. Along with Disney and WarnerMedia, 2019 will see Apple and Walmart join a marketplace that is quickly filling up, as everyone is chasing Netflix. With so many more options, the battle for consumer dollars is only going to get more intense.

Burke’s cryptic message may have signaled the marketplace may get even more crowded.

Bloomberg first reported the contents of Burke’s card.