NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell Out Following ‘Inappropriate Relationship’

Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, is exiting the media company following the disclosure of an “inappropriate relationship” in the workplace.

Numerous media sources reported the relationship was with CNBC anchor and senior international correspondent Hadley Gamble, whose filing of a complaint against the company triggered an investigation by outside counsel.

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Shell, who assumed the position in January 2020, had been instrumental in the mainstreaming of premium VOD movie releases, and expedited access to Universal Pictures theatrical releases in retail channels, including home entertainment.

“Today is my last day as CEO of NBCUniversal. I had an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, which I deeply regret,” Shell said in a statement released by NBC. “I’m truly sorry I let my Comcast and NBCUniversal colleagues down, they are the most talented people in the business and the opportunity to work with them the last 19 years has been a privilege.”

Comcast, parent of NBCUniversal, didn’t disclose details of the relationship, saying in a statement from chairman Brian Roberts and president Mike Cavanagh that it values integrity throughout the company. Cavanagh will assume Shell’s position on an interim basis.

“We built this company on a culture of integrity. Nothing is more important than how we treat each other,” Roberts and Cavanagh said. “You should count on your leaders to create a safe and respectful workplace. When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here.”


Peacock Ups Paid Subscribers to 18 Million, Double From Beginning of Year

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming video platform has upped its paid premium/plus subscriber base to 18 million as of Dec. 5 — double the tally from the beginning of the year, according to CEO Jeff Shell. Peacock is also available a free fully ad-supported service.

Shell, speaking at the UBS Global TMT confab in New York City, said Peacock has added 3 million subs since the end of the most-recent fiscal period, which ended Sept. 30. While the tally pales in comparison to rival upstart SVOD services HBO Max, Disney+ and Paramount+, Shell said the addition is not immaterial.

Jeff Shell

“That’s real subscribers paying us real American dollars, not some of the bundled wholesale stuff that you see outside from other people,” Shell said in reference to the Disney+ bundle that includes ESPN+ and Hulu, and separately, the Paramount+/Showtime combo.

The executive said the average paid subscriber consumes 20 hours monthly of Peacock content.

“We’re seeing [average revenue per user] that’s approaching $10 for each of those paid subscribers. Once again, real dollars … that results in a business that on a run rate basis is doing over $2 billion of revenue already in 2.5 years. So very, very encouraging,” Shell said.

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The executive said the subscriber uptick is partially due to the ongoing World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar, the transfer of Hulu content to Peacock, and a pipeline of theatrical movies, including sci-fi thriller Nope and Halloween Ends, among others.

“[Reality shows] ‘Below Deck’ and ‘The Real Housewives’… all of that content goes immediately on to Peacock starting this fall. It used to go to Hulu. Now it goes on Peacock,” Shell said.

The CEO said the addition of more NBC, Bravo and USA content to the Peacock platform, taken from Hulu and other competing platforms, has been more than incremental in terms of subscriber growth.

“Not just a nice little kicker. It’s been above our expectations,” Shell said.

NBCUniversal CEO: Peacock Added 2 Million Subscribers in the Third Quarter

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s hybrid subscription/ad-supported streaming video platform, quietly added 2 million subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30), bringing the service’s paid subscriber base to 15 million.

The platform, which launched in July 2020, ended the previous Q2 fiscal period with a flat 13 million paid subs. Peacock, which is offered free to Xfinity pay-TV subscribers, has struggled to gain third-party customers unlike rivals Disney+, Paramount+ and HBO Max.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell disclosed the subscriber update on the media giant’s subsidiary CNBC.

The executive attributed the subscriber increase to improved content offerings, including live sports, Universal Pictures’ theatrical releases Minions: The Rise of Gru, Jurassic Park Dominion and The Black Phone, and pulling next-day access NBCUniversal TV shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” the “Real Housewives” and “Chicago” series franchises, and “The Voice,” among others, from Hulu, which is majority owned by Disney.

When asked about the expedited interest by Disney in buying out NBCUniversal’s 33% ownership stake in Hulu, Shell reiterated Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts’ contention that the cabler would like to buy Hulu from Disney.

“We, like a lot of other people, would want to own Hulu,” Shell said, adding the likelihood of Disney acquiring the remaining stake before the current 2024 deadline over the platform’s ownership is slim. Disney is contractually obligated to pay NBCUniversal a minimum of $27.5 billion for its Hulu stake.

“That’s not what we anticipate happening, but it’s a pretty valuable asset,” he said.

CEO Jeff Shell: Peacock Paid Subs Barely Scratch the Comcast Surface

NBCUniversal’s hybrid subscription streaming, ad-supported platform Peacock added 4 million paying subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31), to bring its total paying base to 13 million. The service ended the period with 28 million active accounts.

Among major branded SVOD platforms, Peacock’s paid user base is relatively small — a reality not lost upon CEO Jeff Shell.

Speaking on the virtual Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference, Shell said Peacock’s paid sub base only accounts for consumers not within the Comcast ecosystem.

“So, the 13 million paid subs doesn’t represent a fair kind of representation when we have millions of people in Comcast homes getting [Peacock] for free using the content, which we like, by the way,” Shell said.

Comcast ended the most-recent fiscal period with more than 34 million customer relationships, in addition to 32 million broadband subs. All of them currently get free access to Peacock.

“So, thrilled with our trajectory on paid, but obviously, a long way to go,” Shell said.

Meanwhile, Peacock launched with an ad-supported option. A strategy Shell says actually generates more revenue per subscriber than the service does on subscription fees.

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“Couldn’t be more pleased with that,” he said. “As I said, in two short years, we’ve ramped that up to a level, that next to Hulu, is probably second to anybody in the industry. We are getting CPMs [cost-per-mile] at the broadcast level, which we [didn’t] expect to.”

Shell said the ad revenue from stream “validates” the hybrid SVOD/AVOD business model Comcast chose — a dual revenue stream he says matches the core business. Shell finds it amusing that ad-free SVOD services are now embracing advertising.

“Everybody else who we were chasing before is now jumping into the pool behind us saying, ‘Oh, yes, we like this model, too.’ So it’s great and it feels good to be where we are,” Shell said.

Jeff Shell Upbeat on Concurrent Peacock, Theater Movie Release Strategy

When Universal Pictures released Halloween Kills on the Peacock subscription streaming platform the same time as the sequel’s box office debut on Oct. 15, the move marked NBCUniversal’s ongoing proactive steps to rejigger movie distribution in the streaming ecosystem.

Speaking on the Oct. 28 Comcast quarterly earnings call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the decision to offer $9.99 monthly Peacock subscribers (not $4.99 free ad-supported subs) early access to Jaime Lee Curtis’ return as Laurie Strode and her cursed lifelong battle against Michael Myers, paid off.

“We added a few million more subscribers,” Shell said, adding that the move, coupled with the Tokyo Summer Olympics on Peacock, energized the platform. NBCUniversal gave no updates on Peacock subscriber data, which topped 54 million sign-ups and 20 million paid subs through June 30.

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Kills, which generated $49.4 million to lead all weekend new releases, was the second movie after The Boss Baby: Family Business on July 1 to have a concurrent streaming bow. The latter, a sequel to 2017’s The Boss Baby, also topped its opening weekend box office with $16 million in ticket sales.

Shell said the results underscore the reality that streaming and box office can co-exist without cannibalizing revenue streams. The executive was instrumental in Universal taking a hatchet to the 90-day theatrical window — now releasing some titles on premium VOD just 17 days after their exhibitor debut.

“We’ve seen across all streaming platforms that movies move the dial,” Shell said. “It shows that you can play in two different markets.”

In addition to releasing select titles on Peacock and in theaters at the same time, the SVOD service in 2022 will have exclusive access to all Universal titles four months after their box office debut as part of the studio’s new Pay 1 window distribution strategy.

Shell said he remained “really excited” about the status of Peacock going forward.

“We’ve been in business for just over a year, and we’re already more than a third of where Hulu is now, which is a service that’s been more than decades in the making,” he said.

Notably, Kelly Campbell, former president of Hulu, was hired by Shell to the same position at Peacock earlier this month.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell: PVOD Not Very Cannibalistic to Theatrical, Home Entertainment Markets

With movie theaters in California set to open to full capacity June 15, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is upbeat about the exhibition business as it enters the important summer period. And with good reason. Universal Pictures is set to release on June 25 in the U.S. tentpole title F9: The Fast Saga.

The ninth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise, with a $200 million production budget, has already generated $269 million in foreign revenue since launching on May 19 — including almost $204 million in China.

“It’s a big day tomorrow,” Shell said June 14 on the virtual Credit Suisse 23rd Annual Communications Conference. “[F9] is really the first big blockbuster post-pandemic, and we already have close to $300 million of box office revenue in the door. The movie is very satisfying if you’re a ‘Fast and Furious’ fan, which I am and was before I came here. And there’s a lot of life [left] in that franchise.”

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With the domestic F9 box office likely to top $50 million at the box office, Universal, per its new agreement with exhibitors, would open the theatrical window to at least 31 days. Universal could offer the movie into homes after just 17 days in theaters for a $19.99 digital rental (PVOD) if the box office falls below $50 million.

Shell said PVOD has been a success during the pandemic, with early signs that the distribution channel is not siphoning away packaged media and transactional VOD sales as initially feared. He said the studio was worried PVOD would cannibalize theatrical revenue, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and electronic sellthrough.

Those concerns extended to the sequel to 2017’s The Boss Baby, which generated $30.2 million in combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales. Universal is slated to debut the animated sequel, The Boss Baby: Family Business, on the Peacock streaming service and in theaters on July 2.

“The early data is that PVOD is not very cannibalistic to either channel,” Shell said. “We’re hitting a new market for the vast majority of people who [use] PVOD, and PVOD is very profitable to a movie studio.”

Indeed, the executive admits the margins surrounding PVOD are higher than in any other distribution channel. Shell said he doesn’t know what the future holds for early home entertainment access, but the detente reached with exhibitors on the issue is working.

“And right now, it appears to be, in many ways, an additive revenue stream for us and for others,” he said.

Shell said the studio decided to be opportunistic and not just experiment releasing Boss Baby 2 concurrently on Peacock, but expedite the movie’s chance to be “really successful” financially.

“I think there’s not a lot of movies like this coming in this [concurrent] corridor,” Shell said. “It [is] very much movie by movie situation. And you’re going to see a lot of that … people trying different things. And as we recover, depending on if the movie is more domestic or international, will drive a lot of those kind of changes market by market.”

Meanwhile, with the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics set to begin on July 23, Shell said NBCUniversal has become more comfortable that the Games will actually occur — despite ongoing COVID-19 concerns in Japan — adding that depending on ratings, the quadrennial spectacle could be the most profitable Olympics in the history of the company.

“If you want reach, there is nothing better than the Olympics,” he said. “You have 17 days where you dominate every night. You have … this exciting [competition] coming together after a world-changing event to celebrate athletes, success, stories and drama.”

The CEO said that what generally drives Olympics ratings is the strength of the U.S. team in marquee events such as gymnastics, swimming and track & field.

“We’re really pretty optimistic about this,” Shell said. “Simone Biles is just amazing and she’s going to be, for the first week of the Olympics, on every night. And then our swimming team is really strong and our track and field team is really strong.”

In addition to prime time TV coverage of the Games, NBC Sports will stream hundreds of hours from Tokyo on the Peacock hybrid AVOD/SVOD platform.

NBCUniversal CEO: ‘The Office’ Doing Better on Peacock Than Netflix

On New Year’s Day, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service acquired away from Netflix exclusive streaming rights to reruns of “The Office,” in a license deal reportedly worth $500 million. Episodes of the ensemble-cast sitcom, which last broadcast in primetime on NBC in 2013, have regularly ranked among Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 streamed content on the television. Indeed, “The Office” was by far the top TV show in minutes watched in 2020, according to Nielsen.

That acquisition appears to be paying off for Peacock. Speaking on the Jan. 28 fiscal call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the right things about the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company series, which co-starred Steve Carell and John Krasinski, among others.

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell

“We’ve had it now for almost a month, very pleased with how it’s doing,” Shell said. “Our usage among our customers are actually higher than we think the usage was among Netflix customers.”

With Peacock marketed as a hybrid SVOD/AVOD service, with an emphasis on ad-supported video, NBCUniversal is using the initial season of “The Office” and other high-profile content as a loss-leader for Peacock’s free option, with access to subsequent seasons on Peacock’s two paid tiers ($4.99 with ads; $9.99 without).

“We’re seeing that people who are watching ‘The Office’ on Peacock are watching lots of other comedies,” Shell said. “So it’s really driving usage of ‘Parks & Recreation,’ and really driving ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ among others.”

NBCUniversal employed the strategy acquiring streaming rights to England’s Premier League soccer, which Shell said has driven viewership of Western drama “Yellowstone.” He said the recent license deal involving the WWE Network streaming service would help generate viewership for WWE events on USA Network, among other content.

“We believe, there’s kind of an ecosystem here, like the whole world of broadcast where … we can cross promote people into different things,” Shell said. “And that certainly seems to be working and ‘The Office’ has really helped.”

NBCUniversal Boss Defends Expedited Movie Access in the Home

Long before Warner Bros. decided to release its entire 2021 theatrical movie slate (beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day) into the home and cineplex simultaneously, Universal Pictures made waves generating more than $100 million in premium VOD revenue early in the pandemic releasing animated sequel Trolls World Tour into homes instead of on the big screen.

The studio then slashed the 90-day theatrical window down to 17 days. Instead of affording exhibitors three months of exclusivity, Universal offered to revenue-share PVOD sales with accommodating movie chains such as AMC Theatres and Cinemark.

What is clear about the film business is that while the rest of the entertainment business evolved in a rapid way across the world, the film business stayed stuck in the mud on the traditional theatrical windowing basis, says Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, parent of Universal Studios.

Speaking Dec. 8 on the virtual the virtual UBS Global Investor confab, Shell said the traditional release window ignored a market segment of consumers who love movies, but who either don’t go to the theater as often or prefer to watch new releases in their home.

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“Somebody gets excited about a movie that weekend, can’t get a babysitter, and decides they’ll see it in a couple months or next year on HBO,” Shell said. “We, as a movie company, did not serve those customers. And that is not the right way to maximize what is the Rolls Royce content of the entertainment business. We’re leaving a lot money on the table [ignoring $19.99 PVOD].”

Shell said Universal Pictures remains a staunch advocate of the moviegoing experience, including driving to the cineplex and watching content on a big screen with enhanced sound the way filmmakers intended viewers to consume the content.

“I think when the pandemic ends, it’s going to be a bit like the roaring ’20s, when you’re not going to want to be at home anymore,” Shell said. “The idea of sitting at home in your apartment on a Friday night watching Netflix is going to be less appealing.”

But he said the studio is also cognizant to the reality about changing consumer habits watching movies, including on portable devices. Shell reiterated that to Universal, the transactional business model of movies remains of primary importance.

Shell admitted he has been outspoken advocating for the collapse of the theatrical window, arguing it brings enhanced value to the overall business, including theaters.

“There are a lot of people who want to watch a movie in a non-premium way, which is in the home” he said. “I think theatrical will continue to thrive and as more windows collapse … more money is going to made by everybody involved in the movie business. And it’s better for consumers.”

CEO Jeff Shell: Premium Content Going to Peacock AVOD

As ad-supported VOD platforms proliferate in response to SVOD market domination by Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, the distribution channel, which includes The Roku Channel, IMDb TV, Pluto TV, Shout! Factory TV and Tubi, has been dogged by a dearth of higher profile content.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, which launched in July as the market’s first hybrid SVOD/AVOD business model, is looking to change that. The free ad-supported VOD option is targeting original content, including live sports such as the U.K.’s Premier League soccer from the U.K. to entice viewers, according to CEO Jeff Shell.

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Speaking Dec. 8 on the virtual UBS Global Investor confab, Shell said making the free AVOD Peacock service “as strong as possible” in programming is the company’s primary goal in the short term.

Jeff Shell

“We want viewer penetration, so we will offer the vast majority of our strong programming on the AVOD service to continue this momentum we are seeing in distribution,” Shell said, adding that as Peacock SVOD subscriptions increase, the optionality for distribution increases.

“There are many people signing up for premium Peacock to get specific niche programming that we’re not offering on the AVOD service,” he said. “And I think we’ll continue to do that, especially since [SVOD sub growth] has been stronger than we expected.”

Shell disclosed that the Peacock SVOD service generated 26 million subs through Dec. 7 — up 4 million subs since Comcast’s fiscal call last month. He said the service is being considered for selective international markets, which would not include regions such as the U.K., Germany and Italy already covered by sister satellite TV company Sky.

“Peacock is a product we will use selectively in markets,” Shell said. “The original programming we’re making for Peacock will obviously be shown and used on Sky services as well.”

Bonnie Hammer Upped to Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal; Pearlena Igbokwe to Chairman of NBCUniversal Content Studios

Comcast Corp. continues to restructure senior management in the aftermath of several abrupt senior executive departures at NBCUniversal.

The media giant Sept. 9 announced that 30-year veteran Bonnie Hammer has been tapped to take former NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer’s position, while Pearlena Igbokwe replaces Hammer in the chairman position of the NBCUniversal Content Group, which includes Universal Television, Universal Content Productions and NBCUniversal International Studios. Both positions report to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

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Meyer, 75, exited the studio last month after 25 years following disclosure of a personal affair with a young actress. His ouster followed the dismissal of NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy, who was shown the door following allegations of promoting a hostile work environment.

“This is an exciting time for our business, with demand for entertainment content at an all-time high and more distribution platforms available than ever before,” Shell said in a statement regarding Igbokwe, Hammer promotions. “Our television studios are key growth engines for the company, and Pearlena is ideally suited to lead them. She has extraordinary taste and is well-respected within NBCU, and throughout the global creative community.”

Shell lauded Hammer’s “deep industry experience” and “impeccable creative instincts” as key to her promotion. “I am extremely pleased to be gaining Bonnie as a trusted adviser,” Shell said. “Her 25-plus years of prosocial advocacy will be immensely valuable to me and our company.”