NBC Universal readies ad-supported streaming service for mid-2020 launch

Linda Yaccarino pitched NBCU's slate of content to advertisers during Upfronts week

NBC Universal's (NBCU) yet-to-be-named streaming service will launch by the middle of 2020.

At NBCU's upfront presentation today (13 May), chairman of advertising and partnerships Linda Yaccarino called the free, ad-supported OTT service the "largest initiative" in the company's history.

"While other companies are pushing advertisers out, we are pulling you in," said Yaccarino, "with inventory that is fully addressable, data that is fully transparent and an experience that consumers can enjoy and trust — all along a slate of originals and a gigantic library of old favorites."

By suggesting that NBCU will populate its coming online TV hub with existing content, Yaccarino highlights a growing tension in OTT over content ownership. For example, Netflix streams NBCU hits such as Friends, The Office, and Parks and Recreation. It is unclear at this time if those shows will remain on Netflix once NBCU has launched its owned-and-operated streaming service.

Laura Molen, president of ad sales and partnerships at NBCU, told The Drum that the company is developing the streaming service holistically, and will announce the content and ad offerings at a later date.

NBCU also has been tinkering with its ad offerings on linear. Earlier this year, it shared plans to cut 20% of primetime ads by 2020, supplementing that with "prime pods": exclusive 60-second spots sold at the top of primetime content.

Earlier this month, NBCU unveiled ShoppableTV ads, which allow viewers to interact with an ad on-screen ad and push details to their phones to continue the shopping journey.

"We're committed to improving the commercial experience for consumers in service to the marketers that we work with," said Molen, who added that developing cross-platform measurement tool CFlight and other attribution modeling "is where we're investing our money."

"NBCU is not a technology company like a Facebook or YouTube.... For us, content is our premium product, and those companies are trying to get into the content space while we work to better our offering in the data and technological space. With our parent company being Comcast, we have the tools to do what we need to do to build in that area. It's really exciting," said Molen.

During the upfront presentation, Yaccarino said the company spent $24bn on original content in 2018.

NBCU announced it has renewed its current top show This Is Us for another three seasons.

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