Note: This article was originally posted on September 18 at 5:36 p.m. CT.
Today, in everything old is new again news: The battle between the people who make (or at least own) the TV shows, and the people who actually stick the TV shows in our houses, has just stepped back from one its periodic trips to the brink. Rather than a fight between studios and cable companies, though—an old fight that ended up getting resolved, more often than not, by the two merging into one 30 Rock-esque tumor of content delivery—the war is currently being waged between companies like NBCUniversal and Roku, the device that allows something like 40 percent of Americans to put streaming content on their TVs. Now, though, that conflict appears to have been resolved; NBCU, after months of fighting and petty sniping, announced today that it’s finalized a deal to get its new Peacock streaming service onto Roku’s boxes.
Per The Verge, the two companies were engaged, up until a few hours ago, in a pretty nasty fight over Peacock—and specifically how much the Comcast-owned media conglomerate was going to have to pay Roku in order to get it to carry the company’s app, and thus let consumers access this Brave New World it’s so set to promote. NBCUniversal reportedly balked at the 20 percent cut of signup fees Roku takes from partners hoping to stream on its over-the-top boxes, which allow TVs to easily access online programming. But the real sticking point was allegedly that the TV company was pissed that Roku wanted control of a healthy chunk (reportedly, about 30 percent) of its advertising inventory. Given that part of Peacock’s appeal has been the offering of a free, ad-supported tier of content, control of those ads is obviously a pretty big deal, especially since NBCU has reportedly been putting a lot of work into designing a new proprietary ad system designed to get the most out of whatever eyeballs it can manage to snare.
The fight got nasty enough that it bled into the company’s other dealings, too; Roku’s deal on NBC’s various TV Everywhere offerings, which allow different chunks of its content to stream free on the over-the-top box, expired this month, and thus got wrapped up into the negotiations. (There was also the usual slate of accusations of anti-consumer behavior on both parts, including Roku throwing some high-level shade by noting that “While these NBC TV Everywhere apps represent a very small number of streaming hours on our platform, we believe they are convenient to people who use them.”)
Now, though, the issue has apparently been resolved; details on the deal haven’t been made public, but the two companies have reportedly found a way to make everybody happy in their efforts to fork more content down our throats. Not that the streaming landscape is suddenly all happiness and frolicking; Amazon, whose Fire TV is Roku’s main competitor, still hasn’t cut a deal with NBCU, and neither company has managed to work out an arrangement with Warner Media to get HBO Max up on their boxes. More worrying, as more +-branded streaming services come rolling down the line, and TV content gets well and truly Balkanized, it’s pretty obvious that these fights over our collective brains, eyes, and time, are only going to get worse.
Update, 9/21/20, 11:16 a.m. CT: It’s now official—Peacock is available on Roku devices throughout the U.S. as of September 21. In a press release announcing the news, Maggie McLean Suniewick, President of Business Development and Partnerships for the streamer, said “we are excited to bring Peacock and its unrivaled catalog to millions of Americans who enjoy entertainment on their favorite Roku devices.” So go forth and Peacock, you Roku users. (And it’s your move, HBO Max.)