NBCUniversal streaming service is due out next year
NBCUniversal shook up its executive ranks on Monday, moving Bonnie Hammer off of its streaming operations and into the top role at NBCU Content Studios, a combination of Universal Television and Universal Content Productions. Brought in to hatch Peacock, NBCU’s upcoming streaming service, is longtime Comcast executive Matt Strauss.
That’s a name readers of TheWrap won’t know as well as Hammer’s — and a lot less than Paul Telegdy’s and George Cheeks’, two other top managers now in need of some new business cards. For the past year, the duo ran NBC Entertainment together in the Comcast-owned company’s best effort to replace Bob Greenblatt. Going forward, Telegdy chairs NBC alone and Cheeks will produce for Hammer at the studio.
So just who is Matt Strauss, what does he bring to the table, and what challenges will he face with next year’s big launch?
Before he joined the Peacock flock, Strauss served as executive vice president of Comcast Cable’s Xfinity services. There, he led the strategy and development of products and services for more than 30 million residential customers. Xfinity TV, one of the nation’s largest distributors of video and entertainment services, was under his purview, as were internet and voice services.
Prior to that position, Strauss held an EVP title at the company’s video and entertainment services unit. He’s credited with launching Comcast’s cloud DVR, its in-home streaming across devices, and the voice remote.
Ahead of joining Comcast’s senior management team back in 2004, Strauss was executive vice president and general manager of Rainbow Media’s Mag Rack, one of the first national on-demand networks. He also has strategic planning at ABC on his resume.
Strauss now takes the reins as Peacock prepares to enter an increasingly crowded streaming race. Peacock, long shrouded in mystery, revealed last month it’ll debut next year with a collection of new shows and classic NBC sitcoms like “The Office” and “30 Rock.” The service will feature reboots of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Saved By the Bell” and “Punky Brewster,” along with new comedies from Mike Schur, Rashida Jones and an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”
A price point and official launch date are still to be announced, but NBC has previously said Peacock will be available for free to TV subscribers and, unlike HBO Max and Disney+, will be advertiser-supported.
Whether that’s an attractive enough offer to grab subscribers — or whether Peacock is too far behind other mainstay services to carve out a major position — will be easier to answer a year from now.
But Peacock has its work cut out. There’s growing evidence U.S. viewers are experiencing “subscription fatigue” and are less willing to shell out for more than 3 streaming services. Netflix dominates the space, with more than 150 million global customers. Disney’s new lynchpin service, Disney+, will hit the market next month — or about six months ahead of Peacock. It also owns Hulu, which has nearly 30 million U.S. customers. Factor in new services coming from Apple and WarnerMedia, and viewers will have an even tougher time deciding which services are worth their money.
One advantage working in Peacock’s favor, though, is that Strauss seems to understand the cord-cutting revolution better than most network executives.
“One of the misnomers that I think a lot of people have is that millennials don’t watch TV. It’s actually wrong. Millennials watch a lot of TV. They just watch TV differently,” Strauss told the Chicago Tribune in 2017. “A millennial very much consumes sports, very much consumes broadcast television, very much consumes premium channels like HBO and Showtime. They just want to access it differently, and they want to have it in an economic model that is more affordable for them.”
One of the last projects Strauss oversaw at Comcast was making its Flex streaming box free to all of its broadband customers. Previously, it had cost $5 per month for customers to rent. The early returns are unknown, but it’s easy to see why Comcast would make the move: instead of battling more established players like Roku for device revenue, Comcast simply wants to get its customers streaming and keep them in-house — while also pointing them to their preferred streaming apps. It’s a worthwhile bet.
NBCU will need Strauss to make similar maneuvers as he looks to make Peacock stream out from the SVOD and AVOD pack.