NBCUniversal Is Pulling The Office From Netflix, but It’s Still Open to Working With Rival Platforms

Linda Yaccarino discussed her company's relationship with the streaming service at Adweek's NexTech event

"It's profitable and those guys are good partners," Linda Yaccarino said of NBCU's streaming competition.
Sean T. Smith for Adweek

Cries rang out across the streaming sphere last month when NBCUniversal announced it would pull fan favorite The Office off Netflix come 2021 in favor of running the beloved comedy on the company’s own streaming service, set to debut in April of next year.

But Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships, NBCUniversal, said at Adweek’s NexTech event on Thursday that just because her company took The Office back, that doesn’t mean that viewers will never see NBCU content on partners like Netflix or Hulu again.

“NBCUniversal is not going to be steadfast in, ‘We will never sell anything to any of those guys again,’ because depending on the type of content that it is, and when you think about the networks or digital assets that we own that are constantly pumping out content, there might be content that makes sense to still be in that business,” she said. “It’s a good business for us. It’s profitable, and those guys are good partners. So that will continue.”

NBCUniversal is banking on The Office providing the same sort of viewership numbers for its still-unnamed streaming service that it did for Netflix. According to Yaccarino, The Office made up a whopping 5% of Netflix’s total viewership, a statistic that she said “makes you more bullish on a streaming world other than Netflix and Amazon.”

"NBC Unviversal is not going to be steadfast in, 'We will never sell anything to any of those guys again' … It's profitable, and those guys are good partners."
-Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships, NBCUniversal, on working with rival streaming services like Netflix and Hulu

The streaming world is steadily expanding beyond Netflix and Amazon. NBCUniversal is entering the game around the same time as several other players roll out their own OTT offerings, including Disney (Disney+), Apple (AppleTV+) and Warner Media (HBO Max). “I don’t think it scares us, but it reminds us that we have a formidable competitor,” said Yaccarino.

NBCUniversal’s platform will be ad-supported, while the other players’ services will mimic the Netflix format of a monthly subscriber fee in exchange for ad-free content, at least initially (WarnerMedia said it will offer an ad-supported tier down the line). But Yaccarino said that it’s a proposition with which consumers will be pleased.

“The data is clear and it’s consistent that the right amount of content in exchange for the right amount and the right number of ads to the consumer, if you get it right and don’t overwhelm me with ads, and the ads are interesting to me—I would rather watch ads then write you a check,” she said.

Also helping to boost NBCUniversal’s confidence is the wealth of content it has at its disposal—just like The Office, which she says will help them stand out in an increasingly crowded space.

“Content is at the heartbeat of our company, because it’s at zeitgeist of the conversation,” said Yaccarino. “If we can get really great at portfolio and partnerships and global distribution, I think that we get to check the box on these new competitors.”

Yaccarino spoke at NexTech just hours after NBCUniversal said it had wrapped a nearly $7 billion upfront. This year, she passed the upfronts baton to her two lieutenants, Mark Marshall and Laura Molen, now that her oversight has expanded to include ad tech, measurement, marketing and monetizing NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service.

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