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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Caitlin Clark’s Moment in History Will Stay on Peacock. Here’s Why

  • Comcast-owned NBCUniversal continues to emphasize its streaming platform.
  • Broadcast network is aiming to revive its previously dormant entertainment programming.
Caitlin Clark
USA TODAY

Live sports on the internet is about to hit another major inflection point, this time due to women’s basketball phenom Caitlin Clark.

The Iowa star is just eight points away from setting the player scoring record for NCAA women’s college basketball, and her attempt to break the mark Thursday night in a game against Michigan will be shown exclusively on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. And not only is Peacock showing the game itself, but it is also creating an alternate feed, the State Farm–sponsored Caitlin Cast, that will stay focused on her whenever she’s on the court. 

Despite Clark’s continued on-court exploits drawing banner numbers on linear television—including roughly 1.77 million last weekend on Fox for a Hawkeyes game against Nebraska—there are no plans to shift the game, sources close to the network told Front Office Sports. There are multiple reasons why:

  • The Iowa-Michigan game was long ago identified as a Peacock exclusive stream, part of NBC Sports’ seven-year contract struck in 2022 with the Big Ten Conference. Peacock is showing seven Iowa games overall this season. 
  • NBC showed Clark and the Hawkeyes on Jan. 21 against Ohio State and drew an average audience of 1.93 million, representing the largest regular-season draw for women’s college basketball on any network since 2010. But the broadcast network will devote its prime-time schedule Thursday to repeats of three separate episodes within the expansive Law & Order drama franchise. For Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, as well as other major broadcast networks, it is critical to their overall corporate strategies to revive their entertainment programming businesses after the lengthy actors’ and writers’ strikes this past summer and fall disrupted the normal TV season. 
  • Despite the current hype surrounding Clark, it’s possible those Law & Order programs will draw a much larger audience. For the original airings of those season premieres last month, Law & Order: SVU averaged nearly 5.6 million viewers, while the flagship Law & Order averaged 5.2 million and Law & Order: Organized Crime pulled in 3.8 million. 
  • Peacock is also an increasingly important part of Comcast’s corporate strategy, particularly as legacy media businesses continue to be disrupted massively by cord-cutting and streaming. The platform drew an average audience of 23 million, a U.S. record for a livestreamed event, for an NFL playoff game last month, and Comcast executives see that game as an important proof of concept for what Peacock can do in the future. The current Caitlin Clark mania essentially follows in that wake and, similar to that Chiefs-Dolphins game and all of Peacock’s sports programming, will be seen as a tool to help drive subscriptions beyond the platform’s 31 million registered by the end of 2023.

“That was a galvanizing moment for the entire company,” Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO, told FOS earlier this week regarding the NFL game. “To say we’re going to have the biggest day in [American] internet history, that didn’t happen by accident.”

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