When NBC Universal's streaming service Peacock launched on July 15th, it was available to just about every bit of streaming hardware out there -- except Roku devices. That changes today. After prolonged negotiations, and even a bit of public acrimony, Peacock is now officially available to Roku users.
“We are excited to bring Peacock and its unrivaled catalog to millions of Americans who enjoy entertainment on their favorite Roku devices,” said Maggie McLean Suniewick, Peacock' president of Business Development and Partnerships. “Roku customers are engaged streamers and we know they’ll love access to a wide range of free and paid content.”
As is often with the case with online media, Peacock's delayed arrival on Roku streaming sticks and set-top boxes boiled down to one major factor: Ad money. Companies that operate ad-supported Roku channels -- like NBC and Peacock, for instance -- are contractually obliged to let Roku sell 30 percent of its ad inventory and claim all the revenue that comes from it. According to Variety, however, NBC Universal was unwilling to yield any of its ad inventory to Roku, partially because it planned to offer Peacock to Roku customers free of charge.
That's not all, either. One of Peacock's standout features is that its ad-supported tiers will run no more than five minutes of ads per hour. That means Roku's slice of the service's overall ad revenue may have been minimal at best, but NBC used that consumer-friendly promise to further justify why Roku shouldn’t be able to claim any ad inventory or money. (For what it's worth, NBC thinks it get away with minimal ad placement because it developed new ad formats and inked exclusivity deals with certain "charter" sponsors to make the most of those limited commercial breaks.) All the while, NBC Universal had apparently been dealing with a flurry of new provisions that needed to be met if Roku was going to agree to carry Peacock. In short, the whole thing was a mess.
Those messy negotiations came to a head late last week, when Comcast-owned NBC Universal threatened to pull 46 of its TV Everywhere channels -- including 11 network apps, 12 NBC-owned station apps and 23 Telemundo-owned station apps -- from Roku after its distribution deal had expired. After some public sniping from both parties, the drama quickly subsided: The two companies announced just hours later that Peacock would indeed arrive on Roku shortly. The terms of the deal Roku and NBC Universal eventually struck remain unknown, but the latter's hard line ultimately may have been responsible for forcing Roku's hand.
Now, if Roku, AT&T and WarnerMedia could just sort out their issues with HBO Max, people might actually have a reason to buy its streaming sticks again.