Starting in September, if you want to watch NBC shows like Law & Order: SVU or Saturday Night Live the next day via streaming, you’ll need to sign up for Peacock. After months of speculation, NBCUniversal has officially informed Hulu parent Disney that it will be terminating the yearslong licensing agreement that allowed the streamer to house NBC programming a few hours after it aired on the broadcast network, an NBCU rep tells Vulture. The Wall Street Journal and others reported last month such a step was likely to happen, but it only became official in recent days.
Hulu also confirmed the NBC exit, putting out a statement basically saying it knew this was coming. “With the proliferation of streaming services entering the marketplace, we have long anticipated changes to our third-party content offering and over the past few years have increased our investment in original content,” a rep for the streamer said.
The move is a big deal, even though it had been telegraphed for so long. Hulu was founded as a way for audiences to watch network programming the next day via streaming, and for years, that was one of its main draws. By all accounts, network programming is generally still a considerable source of revenue and audience engagement for Hulu. But NBC almost surely benefits more from the advertising revenue sold on Hulu replays as well as the exposure to a wider audience. NBCU, however, is now much more interested in growing revenue and subscribers for its own streamer, Peacock, which will mark its two-year birthday in July.
Even though there is a not-small chance that NBC prime-time shows will lose audiences by leaving the much bigger Hulu platform, NBCU believes it’s worth that risk in order to beef up Peacock. As for Hulu, while it will no doubt take a small hit in terms of lost streaming hours, it is now mostly focused on its original content as well as product from Disney-owned platforms such as FX, Freeform, and the newly formed Onyx Collective. It will also still have access to next-day airings from sister broadcast network ABC as well as the Rupert Murdoch–owned Fox. The folks most impacted by the change: Consumers, who will now have to pay for another streaming service.