NBCUniversal may be looking to yank key content from Hulu

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NBCUniversal is reportedly planning to yank a significant chunk of its content from streaming platform Hulu and make it exclusive to its own, in house streamer, Peacock, according to a Wall Street Journal report Nov. 22, 2021.

That could include “Saturday Night Live” and “The Voice,” which could disappear by fall of 2022 should NBCU exercise an option to exit the Hulu partnership. Otherwise, the network has deals in place that would keep its content there through at least 2024.

While NBCU only accounts for a small percentage of overall viewership on Hulu, it’s also responsible for delivering about 80% of NBC digital audience, according WSJ sources.

On the surface, that seems like losing NBCU content won’t necessarily hurt Hulu significantly, but that could be another matter if NBC’s strategy here is to lure more viewers to its side.

Ultimately, this could be an interesting test to see if the draw of NBCU content is enough to get people to sign up for yet another streaming service.

Peacock is somewhat unique in that it also offers a limited, ad supported free tier, so another big decision for NBCU could be what, if any, of the content is available at the free tier and how it might leverage a potential influx of free users to become paying customers.

NBCUniversal owns a third of Hulu, which was originally launched as a joint venture between News Corp., which owns Fox, Disney, which owns ABC and NBCUniversal as well as some non-broadcast investors.

It initially featured a wide range of content from multiple networks, including ABC, NBC and Fox.

However, Disney ultimately gained controlling interest in the service when it bought most of the assets of 21st Century Fox, a new company that had been formed to serve as parent to former News Corp. broadcast media assets.

Disney also offers Disney+, which is billed as a “family friendly” streaming service. Its majority stake in Hulu has allowed it to bundle the two services along with ESPN+ and provides a home for a more wide ranging selection of content.

Fox, meanwhile, went on to launch Tubi, a free, ad supported streamer as well as Fox Nation, a paid service.

Not all shows that air or aired on ABC, Fox or NBC are available on their respective streaming services because those rights can be negotiated separately by the production company.

While networks have been brining more production in house and locking down streaming rights early on, some hits, such as “Seinfeld,” don’t end up where it seems they should be. “Seinfeld” streaming rights, in particular, sparked a bidding war that ultimately ended going to Netflix despite that it aired on NBC.