NBC might unveil an online TV service in 2019

Gerry Smith and Anousha Sakoui
Bloomberg News

NBC Universal’s boss sent a holiday greeting to employees this week, and it contained an intriguing hint about the coming year.

Steve Burke, head of the Comcast Corp. division, suggested that the company might unveil an online TV service in 2019 – though it’s hard to know how seriously to take a message written in the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss.

“While you all go off to relax, swim or ski,” Burke wrote. “Maybe, just maybe, next year we will announce our plan for OTT.”

The initials are a reference to “over-the-top” services that provide video content to customers via the internet rather than a traditional satellite or cable TV subscription.

Burke, who oversees the NBC network, cable channels such as USA, and the Universal theme parks and movie studio, has yet to announce a streaming product like those planned by rivals Walt Disney Co. and AT&T Inc.’s Warner Media next year. But Comcast is getting such a service through its acquisition of Sky Plc.

The whole industry is rushing to compete with Netflix Inc., which continues to amass subscribers and programming for its dominant streaming platform.

In his holiday note, Burke also lamented that Comcast lost out to Disney in a bidding war for 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.

“During 2018 our businesses mostly rocked,” he said. “But it did not feel at all good when Disney got Fox.”

The executive noted the disappointing performance of the Dwayne Johnson film “Skyscraper,” while praising hits such as “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the NBC show “New Amsterdam” and results at the Spanish-language network Telemundo.

“Even though Skyscraper’ did not quite deliver, we come back next year with Pets 2’ in our quiver,” he said.