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Comcast has big streaming dreams to compete with Netflix and Disney

June 24, 2021, 4:00 PM UTC

Comcast wants to become a streaming powerhouse. So it’s reportedly mapping out a strategy that could mean the release of new services and platforms or, separately, deals with ViacomCBS or Roku, according to The Wall Street Journal. But the company faces some pretty daunting challenges.

As part of its strategy, Comcast plans to boost NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, which debuted last year with three tiers of service ranging from free to $9.99 a month. So far, Peacock’s viewership and accolades greatly lag behind the big players in streaming entertainment.  

Peacock only had 42 million subscribers in April, according to the WSJ. That falls well short of Netflix’s 208 million and Disney+’s 103.6 million, which the two companies reported in the first quarter. And when you consider paid subscribers, Peacock’s numbers drop even lower to fewer than 10 million.

Plus, Peacock set aside $2 billion for content on its service over two years. Netflix spent $11.8 billion in content last year and said it plans to increase that to $17 billion in 2021. Disney reportedly spent about $2 billion on new content for Disney+ and plans to spend up to $9 billion for the service by fiscal 2024.

The strategy seems to be working for Disney and Netflix. Netflix recently scored seven Oscars, double its all-time high, and received a whopping 160 Emmy nominations (and secured 21 awards). Disney+ took home eight Emmys and combined with Disney’s Searchlight and Pixar properties, the company nabbed five Oscars.

But spending big bucks on award-winning content won’t be Comcast’s only hurdle. The U.K. is reportedly considering new regulation for streaming services that could include implementing standards focused on impartiality and minimizing harm and offense—rules British broadcasters already have to follow—as well as possible measures to “level the playing field,” according to Deadline.  

Then there’s viewer fatigue, stemming from the growing number of streaming services from which they have to choose. Want to watch a Marvel movie? You need Disney. Hoping to catch the latest episode of Stranger Things? Better have Netflix. Miss this week’s episode of The Bachelor? Fingers crossed that you have Hulu.

Streaming services once were positioned as the cheaper, easier alternative to cable. But with rising prices and continued fragmentation of the different services, customers appear to be losing the benefits they initially wanted.

Comcast may want to be a streaming powerhouse. But it’s going to have to power through a lot of obstacles to get there.

***
Finally, I’d like to end this essay with a little news from my corner of the world. Tomorrow is my last day at Fortune, therefore this is my last Data Sheet. It’s been a pleasure delivering the day’s news to your inboxes, first as a guest Data Sheet writer and then tag-teaming it with my Fortune colleagues since October.

Thank you so much for all the kind, funny, interesting, and, yes, even the brutal feedback you’ve given me in response to my essays. I’ve truly enjoyed our conversations and have no doubt you’ll have plenty more with my colleagues after my departure. Until we meet again.

Danielle Abril
@DanielleDigest
danielle.abril@fortune.com

***

Semiconductors are an essential part of computer chips and, therefore, power much of the technology our modern world increasingly relies upon. This is especially the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand for personal electronics and internet connectivity has skyrocketed. Along with toilet paper and lumber, though, semiconductors are in short supply, due to erratic, pandemic-related bottlenecks in the global supply chain. But simply making more semiconductors isn’t so easy.  

On today’s Brainstorm, Michal Lev-Ram and Brian O’Keefe dive into the reasons for the semiconductor shortage and explore what solutions exist in the near and long term. Listen to the podcast here.

NEWSWORTHY

RIP, John McAfee. A high-profile death shocked the business community on Wednesday. Tech entrepreneur John McAfee, creator of the antivirus and security software firm McAfee, died by suicide in a Barcelona prison, according to his lawyer. The news came the same day that a Spanish court ordered that McAfee be extradited to the U.S. on tax evasion charges. McAfee had been detained in Spain since October after spending years on the run. Two months after his arrest, McAfee had requested to be released but was denied by the court, which considered him a flight risk.

Quick but costly? Uber Eats is now warning users that the prices they see for menu items on their app may be lower at the physical location of the restaurants. The label was implemented in response to pressure from attorneys general in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., who wanted the app to provide more price transparency. Users outside of those states will not see the disclaimers. Uber told Bloomberg that prices on its app are set by the restaurants, not Uber. There's no indication yet on whether other state officials will push for the expansion of the labels to their areas or whether the warnings are expected to have any effect on Uber Eats’ sales.

Khan v. conservative courts. Lina Khan made history when she was sworn in as the youngest chair of the Federal Trade Commission last week. The Big Tech critic’s appointment had many people speculating about what consequences could soon be looming for companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. But antitrust experts say there’s one big challenge that may stand in Khan’s way: a conservative judiciary that has a track record of hindering ambitious antitrust cases. Meanwhile, Khan has already been handed her first big job. The FTC is expected to investigate Amazon’s proposed $8.45 billion purchase of MGM

The Republican divide. Republicans and Democrats agree: Big Tech needs to be reined in. But conservatives are reportedly divided on how they should address antitrust concerns and the package of bills aimed at companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, Politico reports. Some Republicans are concerned that the proposed bills do not address conservative bias—a complaint they regularly hurl at Big Tech companies. Others say lobbyists are using their conservative ties to try to influence more Republicans to throw out the proposals. And some blame their colleagues for secretly working with Democrats to come up with a plan.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Companies are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to help them recruit and hire new employees. Last year, Fortune took a deep dive into how different companies are using the tech to help them. The problem? Some systems powered by A.I. might have bias baked into the process. Sheridan Wall and Hilke Schellmann explore this topic in a recent piece for MIT Technology Review. In it, Derek Kan, vice president of product management at Monster, offers some perspective.

“With automation at each step of the hiring process, job seekers must now learn how to stand out to both the algorithm and the hiring managers. But without clear information on what these algorithms do, candidates face significant challenges.

‘I think people underestimate the impact algorithms and recommendation engines have on jobs,” Kan says. ‘The way you present yourself is most likely read by thousands of machines and servers first, before it even gets to a human eye.’”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Amazon Web Services and Salesforce are deepening their ties to fight Microsoft and Google By Jonathan Vanian

Amazon Prime Day beats Cyber Monday with $11 billion in sales By Phil Wahba

Facebook exec Fidji Simo: Apple is ‘hurting’ the creator economy By Danielle Abril

Google and Microsoft’s venture capital arms are pouring $120 million into data-cruncher Incorta By Jonathan Vanian

What Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, and MLB umpires can teach us about making better decisions By Geoff Colvin

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

BEFORE YOU GO

One of the trends I followed during the height of the pandemic was the mass adoption of dogs and cats. (I, too, picked up a new friend in Wicket, my terrier mix rescue.) But as employees head back to the office, the question on the minds of many new pet parents is: What about our furry friends? It turns out employers are aware of their workforce’s changing needs. And some are rising to the occasion, offering voluntary benefits like pet insurance and pet-friendly workplaces.

At a time when employees are switching jobs at record rates, pet perks may prove to be a valuable differentiator. Wicket is optimistic about the possibility of a furry-friendly future. After all, how can anyone say 'no' to that sweet face?

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