Australia markets closed
  • ALL ORDS

    6,940.60
    -165.10 (-2.32%)
     
  • ASX 200

    6,673.30
    -160.70 (-2.35%)
     
  • AUD/USD

    0.7708
    -0.0171 (-2.17%)
     
  • OIL

    61.66
    -1.87 (-2.94%)
     
  • GOLD

    1,733.00
    -42.40 (-2.39%)
     
  • BTC-AUD

    60,828.34
    +690.66 (+1.15%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    912.88
    -20.25 (-2.17%)
     
  • AUD/EUR

    0.6381
    -0.0083 (-1.28%)
     
  • AUD/NZD

    1.0645
    -0.0038 (-0.36%)
     
  • NZX 50

    12,227.29
    +86.63 (+0.71%)
     
  • NASDAQ

    12,909.44
    +81.13 (+0.63%)
     
  • FTSE

    6,483.43
    -168.53 (-2.53%)
     
  • Dow Jones

    30,932.37
    -469.64 (-1.50%)
     
  • DAX

    13,786.29
    -93.04 (-0.67%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    28,980.21
    -1,093.96 (-3.64%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    28,966.01
    -1,202.26 (-3.99%)
     

NBCUniversal is making Peacock its ESPN+

Daniel Roberts
·Editor-at-Large
·4-min read

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were supposed to be the tentpole content attraction on NBC’s Peacock streaming app when it launched in July. Instead, the Games were postponed one year to July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now may be at risk of getting canceled completely.

Peacock launched in July anyway, and has amassed 26 million subscribers as of December, already more than NBCUniversal parent company Comcast’s Xfinity video service.

Now, in the past week, Peacock is making plenty of sports content moves.

On Friday, NBC Sports told its employees it will shut down NBC Sports Network at the end of the year. The channel is best known for having NHL, NASCAR, and Premier League soccer. For this year, some NBC Sports programming, including NHL playoff games and NASCAR races, will move to USA Network. NBC had already moved some 175 Premier League games to Peacock. By next year, expect it to move more games to Peacock.

NBC’s rights deal with the NHL expires this year, and its deal with the Premier League expires next year; if it re-ups those contracts, expect those to go heavy on Peacock as well.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: An NBC Sports Network television microphone is seen ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on April 7, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images)
An NBC Sports Network television microphone is seen ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on April 7, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images)

Besides games from soon-to-be-defunct NBC Sports Network, NBCUniversal also just announced a $1 billion deal with WWE to roll the entire WWE Network, which launched in 2014 before the sports streaming boom, into Peacock by March. The deal adds 1.2 million subscribers to Peacock. WWE’s devoted fans will get a better deal than before: $4.99 per month for the ad-supported middle Peacock tier, as opposed to the $9.99 they were paying for WWE Network. (Or they can pay $9.99 for the ad-free Peacock premium tier.) Comcast subscribers get the $4.99 middle Peacock tier for free, so they’ll now get WWE Network for free.

On Monday, NBCUniversal moved even more sports content to Peacock: non-race IndyCar content will be moved from NBC Sports Gold’s IndyCar Pass to Peacock.

NBC’s new strategy for its non-network live sports content is emerging, and it looks a lot like what ESPN is doing with ESPN+.

NBCUniversal over the last few years has offered a slew of sport-specific “passes” through its NBC Sports Gold streaming platform, and it now looks likely all of those will eventually shift to Peacock.

Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), which launched its inaugural season in 2019 with an NBC Sports deal that included some games streamed on Gold, is yet another example. Sources close to PLL tell Yahoo Finance that conversations have already begun about what a transition from Gold to Peacock would look like, in addition to linear options for its next season.

All of these deals sweeten the Peacock pot for fans of these sports, and help distract from the absence of the Olympics. Peacock chief revenue officer Rick Cordella told the Wall Street Journal that premium sports content is "a cornerstone of our strategy."

PEACOCK EVENTS -- "Peacock Investor Day" at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, NY on Thursday, January 16, 2020 -- Pictured: Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/Peacock/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
"Peacock Investor Day" at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, NY on January 16, 2020 -- Pictured: Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/Peacock/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

ESPN+, which launched in 2018, has amassed 11.5 million paying subscribers as of December.

ESPN has used the platform for all manner of surplus sports content, live and scripted, from college sports to Top Rank boxing to UFC to cricket and rugby, plus original shows hosted by the likes of Peyton Manning (“Peyton’s Places”) and Kevin Durant (“Detail”). (The app experienced serious technical difficulties during last weekend’s McGregor-Poirier fight that left UFC fans livid.) ESPN+ also has the entire library of “30 For 30” documentaries.

Of course, Peacock is far more than sports. It is becoming NBC’s kitchen-sink streaming offering, so a better comparison may be Disney+.

But with NBC shutting down its standalone sports channel to push sports content to Peacock, it’s apparent that even with hit shows like “The Office” and “Yellowstone” in the Peacock library, live sports may end up being the best accelerant it has to boost subscribers. And whenever the next Olympic Games happen—whether it’s the Tokyo Summer Games in 2021 or the Beijing Winter Games in 2022—Peacock will emerge even more overtly as a top competitive sports streaming destination.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and specializes in sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

DraftKings, NFL both hope live sports TV ratings dip was due to the election

Washington NFL Team president on sports TV ratings dip: COVID-19 is ‘changing the way we engage’

Fox Sports host Emmanuel Acho: ‘I’m glad sports TV ratings are down’

The biggest storyline of the 2020 NFL season isn’t the pandemic—it’s gambling

Pandemic could have long-lasting impact on live sports ticket sales