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NBCUniversal, Roku reach video distribution deal

The agreement breaks a months-long impasse that had the media and entertainment company threatening to black out its apps on the streaming players.
IGNITION: Future of Media
Roku devices displayed at IGNITION: Future of Media at Time Warner Center in New York City in 2017.Monica Schipper / Getty Images

NBCUniversal and Roku have reached a video distribution deal, breaking a months-long impasse that had NBCUniversal threatening to black out its apps on Roku in the 11th hour.

The deal will keep NBC News, NBC Sports, E!, Bravo and the rest of NBCUniversal's apps on Roku while adding Peacock, the new NBCU streaming service.

NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

“We are pleased Roku recognizes the value in making NBCUniversal’s incredible family of apps and programming, including Peacock, available to all of their users across the country," NBCUniversal said in a statement Friday.

"More than 15 million people signed up for Peacock since its national launch in July and we are thrilled millions more will now be able to access and enjoy Peacock along with other NBCUniversal apps on their favorite Roku devices. Roku’s incredible reach will not only help us ensure Peacock is available to our fans wherever they consume video but continue to expand NBCUniversal’s unrivaled digital presence across platforms.”

The two sides had been at an impasse over, in part, Roku’s refusal to carry Peacock on its platform. Roku was also demanding a cut of NBCUniversal’s advertising inventory.

In a statement earlier 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 countered by accusing Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, of having unreasonable demands for distributing Peacock.

The standoff echoed similar disagreements from the cable industry, in which cable system operators would come to an impasse with the companies that operated broadcast or cable channels. Such disagreements are often short-lived, with the companies eventually agreeing to terms.

The deal is crucial for NBCUniversal, which launched its streaming service, Peacock, in July but had yet to reach agreements with Roku or Amazon — two of the largest manufacturers of devices through which consumers access streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts recently said Peacock had already reached 15 million sign ups, but the service remained unavailable to many consumers. Roku recently reported 43 million monthly active users.