Despite the mix of broadcast, cable and digital assets that would come together as part of a joint venture between Comcast and NBC, it seems that divisions will remain online between content that is produced by broadcast networks and cable networks.
Both Comcast and NBC have been among the leaders in bringing premium video content online; the cable company, through its On-Demand Online initiative (now inexplicably called Fancast Xfinity), and NBC through its distribution of videos on Hulu. But if the Comcast-NBC deal goes through, don’t expect the new joint venture to change much in the way the companies handle their videos online.
For instance, Comcast’s own digital media properties — like Fancast and Comcast.net — will remain part of the cable mothership and will not be included in the joint venture. Those sites will continue to be used for the cable company’s upcoming Xfinity project, which would tie the videos that are available to subscribers online to the cable packages that they’ve paid for.
At the same time, Comcast execs seem to be taking a “hands off” approach to the way that NBC Universal chooses to distribute its videos online. On the companies’ investor relations call earlier today, Comcast COO Steve Burke said that he expected broadcast content NBC to continue to be available in an ad-supported format on Hulu, while the companies would reserve full-length videos from premium cable networks to be made available online through TV Everywhere-type services.
Calling the separate business models “complementary,” Burke went on to say that he didn’t expect much to change in the way NBC Universal managed the distribution of its content.
“Right now, NBC Universal is distributing a lot of their broadcast content on Hulu, and they have been quite careful not to put too much of their paid-for-cable content out for free over the Internet,” Burke said. “We think both those strategies are smart and appropriate… and we would see after the deal closing, lots of broadcast content going to Hulu and being available for free, and cable content that cable customers pay for, that cable companies and satellite companies and telcos pay for, being on TV Everywhere.”
Burke also seemed to throw cold water on the formation of a premium, subscription-based service from Hulu. When asked if he foresaw the creation of a Hulu Premium service on the investor call, Burke said such a plan was “certainly not in the cards.” But on a press call a few hours later, he backpedaled from that stance while seeking to clarify his original answer. “During the next year, NBC Universal is very likely to be doing exactly what it had been doing,” Burke said.
Burke pointed out that NBC is just a minority shareholder in Hulu, and that the specific business models that needed to be worked out would be left to Hulu management, as well as to the new joint venture’s CEO Jeff Zucker. But Zucker declined to elaborate much on the topic, saying that he didn’t want to talk about the Hulu roadmap.