NBCUniversal has plans to launch a free streaming service in 2020, with one catch: ads will support it. Reports that NBCUniversal would start a streaming service began several years ago, although there was no official word on when that might happen.
NBCUniversal joins a market that is already becoming saturated with streaming services. In 2018, Warner Media announced that it would launch a subscription streaming service, which would include the company's massive library of TV shows and movies. Disney announced the name of its subscription streaming service in 2018, with a launch date of late 2019. Disney has since announced that the service would carry nearly a full library of the company's movies and TV shows, as well as original Marvel and Star Wars series with a low price point of $6.99 per month. Netflix continues to grow its services, and even recently began incorporating interactivity into some of its offerings, allowing viewers to play choose your own adventure games with some of its content.
NBCUniversal, however, seems to know it is entering a crowded field. Variety reports the company will make its streaming service 100 percent free, funded by advertising, similar to The CW's streaming service. This sets it apart from its competitors, although the service won't launch until 2020. NBCUniversal ad-sales chief Linda Yaccarino said:
“Next year we’re going to unveil the largest initiative in our company’s history: We’re going to have our own ad supported platform. While other companies are pushing advertisers out, we’re bringing them in. It will have a slate of originals and a gigantic library of all favorites. The shows that people love the most and stream the most are coming home at a price that every person can afford: free.”
Thanks to today's higher Internet speeds, more TV and movie fans are watching their content via streaming sites. A 2018 survey of 2,500 US adults even showed that Netflix had become more popular for watching TV content than traditional cable and broadcast TV. Netflix also came out on top as the most popular streaming provider. There is also CBS All Access, Amazon Prime and Hulu, although more streaming services seem to emerge every day. This means that newer subscription-based services, such as DC Universe, are now fighting reports they're struggling to compete.
NBCUniversal's plan for offering its content for free, though, could pay off in significant ways. With TV watchers starting to suffer from subscription service fatigue, a free ad-based service could prove successful for the company. In the end, cord cutters have officially received what they wanted all along: an a la carte offering of television programming that doesn't require paying an expensive cable bill every month that includes hundreds of channels they never watch. The industry is quickly changing, and one might wonder what took NBCUniversal so long to jump into the fray.