August 6, 2021

Good News! – NBC to Expand its Streaming and Digital Operations

The NBCUniversal News Group announced a significant investment in its streaming and digital operations last week. In a July 27th press release, the group publicized the addition of 200 streaming and digital jobs; several new hours of live, original programming; and international distribution, all to debut in the Fall on NBC News NOW.

Considering the decline in broadcast news ratings, the democratization of news distribution, and other competitive streaming news services set to launch, is this investment in streaming news the right move?

NBC News NOW
As part of the NBCUniversal News Group, NBC News NOW is an advertiser-supported (AVOD) streaming platform providing users access to the latest stories and breaking news. The platform is available as a channel on Peacock, The Roku Channel, YouTube TV, YouTube, Fubo, Xumo, Pluto, and Tubi. It can also be found digitally on NBCNews.com and NBC News OTT apps on Roku, Fire TV, and Apple TV.

Since its launch in 2019, NBC News NOW has experienced solid growth, gradually expanding its live and regular programming. Currently NBC News Now averages more than 44 million views and 14 million hours watched per month.

Programming
As stated in the press announcement, the new streaming schedule will include:

  • A daily, primetime news program anchored by senior, national correspondent, Tom Llamas;
  • A daily evening show and weekly special newsmagazine series hosted by senior Washington correspondent and anchor, Hallie Jackson; and
  • An evening news analysis and explainer program, hosted by anchor Joshua Johnson.

Competitive Landscape
In addition to the plethora of broadcast, digital, and streaming options available, the competition for the “news junkie” is growing.

  • One week before the NBCU announcement, CNN announced its plans to launch CNN+ a streaming channel that will consist of 8-12 hours of programming per day. CNN emphasized that their daily programming will be different from what CNN already produces on TV. The network will offer deep dives into politicized subjects and will hire roughly 450 people to support CNN+.
  • Fox News has a 3-year-old streaming service called Fox Nation. Fox Nation is better known for right-wing opinion programming.
  • The New York Times & The Wall Street Journal, have successful subscription businesses. These businesses, however, are text rather than video-based.
  • CBS & ABC have Free services, that air both headlines and taped stories.

Analysis
Earlier this year, NY Times President & CEO Meredith Kopit Levien projected that 100 million people are expected to pay for English-language journalism over the next ten years. Although this number may be a bit self-serving, we know that there is currently a healthy consumer demand for news. We anticipate that the appetite for news will cool as people return to work, post-pandemic . Also, with former President Trump out of the White House and out of the media spotlight, the news ratings will retreat.

NBCU News Now is well-positioned to be successful. At the end of Q2, the NBCU News Group, was ranked as the #1 news organization in the U.S., beating CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, The New York Times and The Washington Post. In May, NBCU News was #1 in total video minutes watched and total video starts with 380 million views and 1.7 billion minutes watched.

Unlike CNN+, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, NBC News Now is free, albeit ad-supported. As streaming services become more fragmented, consumers are more likely to feel that free is good, especially if they receive a quality product.

Before this Investment in news was announced, NBC did little to differentiate itself from CBS and ABC. However, the 7/27 press release points to a strategy of more original exclusive programming, more personalities, and more passion to grow a strong brand.

Conclusion
As cord cutting continues to accelerate, NBC has come to the realization that there is great potential in extending its brand to streaming. Currently the Big-3 broadcast networks have free standalone news services, mostly showing repurposed content and breaking news. The NBC announcement points to a stronger commitment to streaming and the NBC News Now brand.

The investment alone does not guarantee success, but all signs point to this investment being a wise decision. AVOD vs. SVOD for news is likely a wise choice. Adding news personalities and original programming/analysis is smart, but at the end of the day it will all come down to execution.

It would not surprise anyone if ABC and CBS quickly follow NBC’s lead and increase the investment in their streaming brands. WarnerMedia is making a creative, yet risky move in its approach to the CNN+ brand. On paper, CNN+ feels like the HBO of news, but there are likely a lot more HBO junkies than there are news junkies.

Time and events will give us a better picture into the success of streaming news services, but right now NBCU News has found a great niche and is investing wisely in its future streaming success.

Stick with TDG to Stay in front of the Curve.

 
 

A 20-year veteran media executive, Rob Silvershein’s success in today’s competitive media environment is a direct result of his unique experiences spanning traditional, emerging, and startup media platforms. He is an accomplished strategist and spends most of his time advising media companies on how to structure themselves for long term success. He currently lives in Manhattan Beach, CA.

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