Comcast’s forthcoming entry into the intensifying streaming competition, Peacock, will be profitable within five years and have $2 billion in content and marketing investment in its first two years.
The outlook on the streaming service’s launch next April was provided by Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh in an appearance at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York.
He confirmed that the ad-supported platform will be free for Comcast customers, with “various pricing tiers” for other subscribers. While he didn’t offer any guidance on pricing, he said revenue from advertising will enable Comcast to “make the price to consumers sensible.”
Peacock is joining a crowded marketplace. Disney and Apple just launched new subscription outlets, at far lower price points than Netflix, the market leader whose most popular level of service costs $13 a month. HBO Max will debut next May at $15 a month.
Cavanagh noted that a full tour through the investment strategy and consumer pitch of Peacock has been scheduled for January 16. But speaking from the C-suite of the parent company, he noted that the $2 billion infusion is just 1% of annual earnings, comparable to the level of Xfinity Mobile, a previous new venture by Comcast.
The Peacock effort will entail a “lower cumulative loss or investment than what you otherwise might see in other places, but obviously that’s with the opportunity to rely on advertising, ramp through distribution partnerships,” Cavanagh said.
The $2 billion, he noted, is heavily weighted toward content spending. NBCU earlier this year announced The Office, a popular title on Netflix, will be coming to Peacock in a $500 million deal.
Netflix has been pouring money into programming and marketing, with annual content spending now approaching $15 billion. Traditional media companies have been promoting cumulative figures approaching Netflix levels for their overall programming spending. The major caveats that apply with those figures, though, include the fact that many of those titles air on linear channels or get licensed to third parties. The figures also include live sports, a business segment Netflix has expressed no interest in entering.
Peacock, Cavanagh said, would not be a risky venture. “We’re not looking to play somebody else’s hand. I think our approach to Peacock is a thoughtful consideration of our strengths and opportunities to put together a plan that, in success, will put us in a really good place. Success is ours if we get it right and it’s worth pursuing.”
He added, “Consumer demand will be there. Clearly, advertisers will be looking for opportunities to reach audiences.”
EXCLUSIVE: Grace Gummer Mr. Robot and Molly Griggs Prodigal Son have joined the cast of Dr. Death, a limited series for NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform starring Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. The UCP-produced drama is based on Wondery's hit podcast of the same name.
Dr. Death explores the twisted mind of a sociopath and the failures of the system designed to protect the most defenseless among us. It tells the terrifying true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch Dornan, a rising star in the Dallas medical community. Young, charismatic and ostensibly brilliant, Dr. Duntsch was building a flourishing neurosurgery practice when everything suddenly changed. Patients entered his operating room for complex but routine spinal surgeries and left permanently maimed or dead. As victims piled up, two fellow physicians, neurosurgeon Robert Henderson Baldwin and vascular surgeon Randall Kirby Slater, set out to stop him.
Gummer will play Kim Morgan, a highly capable, hard-charging registered nurse who is drawn into Duntsch's Dornan web - both professionally and personally - by his apparent talent and ambition. Griggs is set as Wendy Young, Duntsch’s girlfriend, the mother of his children and the last remaining moral beacon for the man who would become “Dr. Death.”
Production begins in the spring on Dr. Death, which is written and executive produced by Patrick Macmanus under his overall deal with UCP. Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch also executive produce via Escape Artists, as well as Hernan Lopez and Marshall Lewy of Wondery.
Gummer co-starred as Dominique DiPeierro on the last three seasons of USA Network’s Mr. Robot, and her TV credits also include The Hot Zone, Good Girls Revolt and Extant. She currently is onscreen in Standing Up, Falling Down, opposite Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz. She is repped by CAA and Anonymous Content
Griggs’ series credits include Prodigal Son, Servant and Succession, and she next appears in the indie feature God the Worm opposite Annabella Sciorra. She is repped by Paradigm and Perennial Entertainment.
The Supreme Court sided with Comcast over Byron Allen in his racial discrimination case against the cable giant, ruling that in order for his lawsuit to survive, he bears the burden of showing racial discrimination was the “but for” cause in the cable giant’s refusal to carry his entertainment channels.
The justices, in a unanimous decision, ruled that to prevail, “a plaintiff must initially plead and ultimately prove that, but for race, it would not have suffered the loss of a legally protected right,” according to the opinion.
The decision means that Allen’s lawsuit will go back to the lower court, where he can again try to prove his case.
At issue was whether Allen's $20 billion lawsuit should have survived beyond the pleading stage by merely proving that, in Comcast's decision to deny carriage of his company's channels, his race was a “motivating factor” or whether it was the sole cause, also known as “but for” in legalese. The ruling was viewed as having a potentially significant impact on future racial discrimination cases.
The Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Allen last year, but in oral arguments some of the justices found fault with the lower court's reasoning. There also was skepticism of issuing a definitive ruling that established a lower threshold in racial discrimination cases when a case is first filed, and a higher one if it reaches a trial.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who delivered the opinion for the court, wrote, “Here, a plaintiff bears the burden of showing that race was a but-for cause of its injury. And, while the materials the plaintiff can rely on to show causation may change as a lawsuit progresses from filing to judgment, the burden itself remains constant.”
At the oral arguments, Erwin Chemerinsky, who was arguing for Allen, acknowledged that he eventually would have to show that race was the sole cause for Comcast's rejection. But he argued that it would be an “insurmountable burden” to meet if plaintiffs have to prove that at the outset of the case, as they would not have the benefit of conducting depositions and discovery.
The case hinged on a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that holds that African Americans must have the same right to contracts as whites.
A number of civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, sided with Allen in the case, while the Department of Justice supported Comcast’s position.
In a statement, Comcast said, they “are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously restored certainty on the standard to bring and prove civil rights claims. The well-established framework that has protected civil rights for decades continues. The nation's civil rights laws have not changed with this ruling; they remain the...