NBC plans ad-supported streaming service

The unnamed OTT platform is expected to debut in early 2020 and will include ads.

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Credit: Photo illustration by Ad Age, Composite image Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

NBC Universal plans to launch a free, ad-supported streaming service in early 2020, the company announced on Monday.

The yet-to-be-named service will be led by Bonnie Hammer, who was promoted to chairman, direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, for NBCU. Hammer had previously served as chairman of NBCU's cable group.

This comes, of course, as rivals Walt Disney and AT&T's WarnerMedia prep direct-to-consumer services of their own. CBS also has an over-the-top service, CBS All Access.

NBCU's service will be available for free to paying cable and satellite subscribers and include the company's library of content as well as original programming and content from outside partners.

"Advertising continues to be a major part of the entertainment ecosystem and we believe that a streaming service, with limited and personalized ads, will provide a great consumer experience," NBCU CEO Steve Burke said in a statement.

NBC will sell the streaming service alongside its linear and on-demand content to advertisers, a spokesman said.

There will also be a paid, ad-free version of the service and those that do not have a pay-TV subscription will be able to pay for the service.

NBCU, with content that includes shows like "The Office" and "Saturday Night Live," did not that it will "continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service."

There's been much conversation around OTT services from traditional media companies and what it might mean for how they distribute content on other streaming platforms like Netflix. In December, "Friends" fans went bonkers when they thought WarnerMedia might pull the sitcom from Netflix amid its own, pending streaming service.

As part of the announcement, Burke also reorganized his senior leadership team. Mark Lazarus will become chairman of NBCU's broadcast, cable, sports and news, assuming oversight for most of the company's East-Coast based content. Lazarus will also continue to oversee the sports group, owned TV stations and affiliate relations. Jeff Shell, currently chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, will expand his duties and become chairman of NBC Universal Film and Entertainment, gaining oversight for NBC Entertainment, Telemundo and NBCU's international operations.

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