NBC threatens to black out its channels on Roku due to a dispute over Peacock

September 18, 2020, 3:49 PM UTC

NBCUniversal plans to black out more than 11 channels on Roku Inc.’s streaming platform Saturday morning, escalating a standoff with the company over its refusal to carry a new video app, Peacock.

NBC’s Peacock and AT&T Inc.’s HBO Max have been unable to secure spots on Roku and Amazon.com Inc.’s Fire TV since launching their streaming services earlier this year.

Roku is demanding, among other things, a cut of the advertising inventory on those apps to sell on its own. Comcast Corp.’s NBC and WarnerMedia, the AT&T division that runs HBO Max, are rejecting that push because they want to make money from ads on their streaming services.

In a statement Friday, NBC said Roku’s “unreasonable demands ultimately hurt both their consumers and their consumer equipment partners to whom they’ve promised access to all apps in the marketplace.”

Roku used similar wording in a statement. “Comcast is removing the channels in order to try to force Roku to distribute its new Peacock service on unreasonable terms,” a spokesperson said.

Roku shares fell as much as 2.7% to $160.29 in New York trading. The stock is up 20% this year.

The standoffs are a sign of how Roku, which has about 40 million active users, is flexing its muscles as the largest platform for aggregating streaming services.

Roku and Amazon together control about 70% of the U.S. streaming-device market, limiting the growth of any video apps that aren’t available on them.

More than 15 million users have signed up for Peacock, which launched nationwide July 15.

In an interview with Bloomberg News this week, AT&T Chief Executive Officer John Stankey said he is “optimistic” that one of HBO Max’s disputes with either Roku or Amazon “will resolve itself in relatively short order.”