March 31, 2021
Taking a page out of the Disney over-the-top video playbook, NBCUniversal is reportedly considering diverting all future Universal Pictures releases to proprietary SVOD platform Peacock — rather than Netflix and HBO Max — after their theatrical and transactional home entertainment runs.
Citing sources familiar with the situation, Bloomberg reports Universal’s existing distribution deals with HBO for movies such as Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom nine months after their box office debut, and with Netflix for Illumination titles (i.e. Despicable Me, Sing), both expire at the end of this year. This would give the studio and NBCUniversal the option to channel original movies exclusively to Peacock.
In the build-up to the launch of its own SVOD service, Disney in 2017 began holding back movies previously earmarked for Netflix distribution. Five years prior, Disney and Netflix inked a landmark agreement affording the SVOD platform exclusive access to original Disney movies — an agreement many observers say contributed to Netflix’s burgeoning appeal.
While nothing has been decided, forgoing third-party distribution could see Universal passing up hundreds of millions of dollars in annual licensing revenue for a SVOD subsidiary with 33 million account sign-ups (not subscriptions) since launching last summer.
Universal also has deals in place with exhibitors AMC Theatres and Regal that enable it to distribute movies to premium VOD as early as 17 days after their theatrical debuts, depending on box office.
At the same time, Netflix has aggressively sought to produce its own movies, including about 60 titles annually. The streamer led all studios with Oscar nominations. And HBO Max has exclusive access to Warner Bros. Pictures theatrical releases for the first 31 days.
Separately, Netflix reportedly secured sequel rights to Knives Out, the 2019 critically acclaimed ensemble murder mystery distributed by Lionsgate in a one-picture deal with Media Rights Capital, the production company behind Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Ozark.” The $400 million to $450 million deal would be the most Netflix has ever paid to license a movie. Knives Out generated $331.3 million worldwide theatrically on a budget of $40 million.