Streaming Services Are Slowly Reaching Their Ultimate Cable Bundle Form

The EFF’s Katharine Trendacosta, writing for Slate this time last year:

But here’s the thing: Peacock doesn’t have to be good to compete. It simply has to exist on Comcast. Peacock Premium (with ads) will be free if you are a Comcast or Cox subscriber, and all of those subscribers are getting Peacock’s ads and driving up Peacock’s subscriber numbers, which makes those ads more lucrative for NBCUniversal. And that should come as no surprise to anyone who knows that Comcast owns NBCUniversal and that Cox licenses Comcast’s streaming platform.


Instead of the old horizontal bundling — in which cable companies packaged a bunch of channels together so that people paid for some things they weren’t going to watch to get what they were — the new bundling is going to be vertical, where you pay for internet and get a streaming service in return. It’s not just Comcast that’s doing this. AT&T owns HBO, and it’s going to give premium AT&T mobile and broadband customers HBO Max (not to be confused, although you could definitely be forgiven for doing so, with the existing HBO Go and HBO Now apps) bundles at no extra charge.

Jessica Toonkel and Tom Dotan, the Information:

As Netflix and Disney cement their leads over an array of rivals in the video-streaming market, top executives at Comcast and its NBCUniversal arm are in a quandary. Only 11.3 million households regularly watch NBCU’s Peacock service, far fewer than use competing services, according to recent internal data viewed by The Information. NBCU wants to ramp up Peacock’s growth, particularly among paying users, but without spending a lot of money.

Catie Keck, Gizmodo:

One way that Peacock might grow its subscriptions would be to merge or bundle with another firm or service. The Information reported that NBCUniversal has pitched ViacomCBS about bundling with CBS All Access — soon to relaunch as Paramount+ — at a discounted rate, a pitch that evidently piqued ViacomCBS’s interest for a potential offering in overseas markets. But the outlet also cited NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell, prior to taking his current position, as telling colleagues that the company would need to merge with WarnerMedia to remain competitive. The Information did, however, note that there’s no indication such a deal has been proposed and it’s possible that Shell’s position has changed.

Trendacosta nearly called it, but with a twist: why choose between vertical or horizontal integration when they could do both? Welcome to the era of everything you hate about cable news bundles mixed with everything you hate about monolithic conglomerates.