Plex Adds Former Pluto TV, NBCU, Disney Executives

Streaming media company Plex Aug. 24 announced the hiring of former Pluto TV head of ad sales Harold Morgenstern as new chief revenue officer, and Lindsay Jespersen, formerly of NBCUniversal and Disney, as chief financial officer.

In addition, the company recently hired Christa Foley, formerly of Zappos.com, as VP of people.

Harold Morgenstern

Launched in 2019, Plex offers almost 200 live-TV channels and 40,000+ on-demand movies and TV episodes. With more than 25 million registered users globally, Plex has users in 193 countries. The company has secured more than 300 entertainment content partnerships, including Lionsgate, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Sinclair Broadcast Group, AMC, A+E, Crackle and the BBC.

Morgenstern will oversee all revenue generation across Plex’s global AVOD platform and suite of personal media software and services. During his tenure at Pluto TV he built its ad sales organization from scratch and was part of the leadership team that led to the acquisition by ViacomCBS after growing advertising sales into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Now we not only have the right technology backbone, but also a well-rounded ad team with Harold at the helm,” CEO Keith Valory said in a statement.

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As CFO, Jespersen will lead Plex’s finance, accounting, legal and strategic planning functions through its next phase of growth. Jespersen previously served as VP of finance for NBCUniversal’s global distribution and international segment, supporting the segment chairman and overseeing FP&A and strategic planning for the film and television distribution business.

Prior, she served as VP of finance and strategy at The Walt Disney Co., where she led a global team responsible for the financial operations of ABC News.

Christa Foley joined in May as VP of people where she will continue to cultivate the tight-knit Plex culture across its globally distributed remote workforce. Prior to joining Plex, Foley spent 16 years at Zappos.com, where she led brand vision and culture, and spent several years as the head of talent acquisition where she built out the recruiting team and philosophy.

Peacock Ups Will Gonzalez to Chief Data Officer

NBCUniversal Aug. 24 announced that Will Gonzalez has been promoted to EVP and chief data officer of direct-to-consumer. In this role, Gonzalez will be responsible for Peacock’s global data strategy, leading a team that builds data products to help personalize the customer experience and helps provide critical data-driven insights that enable Peacock’s product and content decisions.

Will Gonzalez

“Will’s incredible passion, charismatic leadership, and vast expertise were foundational to our success in launching and scaling Peacock in the U.S. in its first year,” Gidon Katz, president of direct-to-consumer at NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “With a focus on our international growth and expansion, we are thrilled to broaden Will’s role and team, which play an essential role in shaping our global streaming strategy.”

As a member of the Peacock launch team, Gonzalez served as SVP of decision sciences. In this expanded role, Gonzalez will continue growing a team of data scientists, data engineers, data governance and applied analytics professionals. This team has established a data-driven culture in the U.S. and will now extend expertise in these areas across the global direct-to-consumer operations. Gonzalez will also partner closely with chief data officer John Lee to implement the company’s enterprise-wide consumer identity and data strategy.

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Gonzalez joined NBCUniversal in 2017 as SVP of enterprise business intelligence; in this role, he led, managed and developed the data product management team within the enterprise business intelligence division to enable greater utilization of data assets across multiple business units. Prior to NBCUniversal, Gonzalez held various leadership roles in consumer data and marketing tech initiatives at Sony, and began his career in digital product strategy at The New York Times.

Gonzalez is is based in New York and reports to Gidon Katz, president of direct-to-consumer.

Romina Rosado to Lead New NBCUniversal, Telemundo Hispanic Streaming Unit

NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises has launched a new Hispanic streaming business division dedicated to growing the presence super of Latinos on the Peacock streaming service and across all Telemundo and NBCUniversal streaming platforms.

The unit will be responsible for developing content, including more than 50 projects effective immediately, leading into 2022 and beyond. The company has appointed Romina Rosado as EVP and GM of Hispanic streaming to lead the new division, reporting directly to Beau Ferrari, chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises.

“The division immediately unifies and amplifies our resources and reach to our audience across the company, accelerating our presence on Peacock and the entire NBCUniversal streaming portfolio,” Ferrari said in a statement.

Ferrari hails Rosado as an experienced media executive with a “clear vision” and knowledge for developing relevant content for the Latino and general market.

“She will help serve our company-wide approach to programming for the Hispanic streaming audience,” he said.

With 25% of the U.S. population under the age of 25 being Hispanic, Latino consumers are 14 years younger than the non-Hispanic white population. Driven by streaming video consumption, they spend more time per day on video through TV connected devices and video focused app usage than total adults, according to NBCU. Hispanics are often 50% or more of the average audience to shows that center on Hispanic characters and stories, which is a remarkable over index, considering they are roughly 20% of the population.

In her new role, Rosado will lead cross-company efforts and collaborate with Peacock’s leadership in the development of the service’s Latino content to effectively target and connect with this growing demographic. She will also collaborate with the recently created Telemundo Streaming Studios, the first-ever studio in Hispanic media exclusively dedicated to serving the growing Latino streaming audiences, to develop and produce original content based on Peacock’s content strategy for Hispanics.

Most recently, Rosado was EVP of entertainment and content strategy for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, where she oversaw the company’s omnichannel strategy, with a focus on streaming. Previously, she was SVP of digital media, where she oversaw the growth of Telemundo digital into a streaming powerhouse, tripling the Telemundo App usage in 2020. Rosado joined Telemundo in 2018 to develop Noticias Telemundo’s digital strategy in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Before joining Telemundo, Rosado was SVP of global content at NBCUniversal´s E!, where she helped expand programming and grow the brand’s footprint to more than 1 billion engagements per month in over 160 countries.

Tokyo Olympics Lowest-Rated Games Ever Since NBC Acquired Rights

The delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics proved to be a winner for Team USA, but not necessarily in the TV ratings competition. A day after the closing ceremony, NBCUniversal disclosed the Games averaged about 15.5 million primetime TV viewers over the course of 17-day broadcast period. The tally was 42% lower than the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics (26.7 million viewers) and 2012 London Olympics (31.1 million), and the lowest since NBC acquired the North American rights in 1988.

For NBCU, the ratings are not surprising considering the year-long delay of the 32nd Olympiad due to the pandemic, low approval among many Japanese for the quadrennial event to be held this year, and a general decline in broadcast television consumption. The media company reiterated that the games will be profitable despite the pandemic.

“When you look at the numbers in general and the impact that COVID has had on sports, we were prepared for these numbers,” Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports, told The Wall Street Journal. “For better or worse, I really do believe the pandemic and postponement impacted these games.”

Separately, media measurement company TAD (Total Audience Delivery), reported that the ratings included streaming service Peacock, which featured the most Olympics events ever on an over-the-top video platform. When including streaming, top-rated days included Day 2 (July 25) with 20 million viewers; Day 6 (July 29) with 19.5 million, and Day 11 (July 27) with 17.4 million.

Peacock Tops 54 Million Sign-Ups, 20 Million Paid Subs Driven by Tokyo Olympics; Expanding SVOD to Sky in Europe

NBCUniversal’s hybrid Peacock SVOD/AVOD streaming platform ended the second quarter (through June 30) and year-to-date with 54 million sign-ups and 20 million subscribers. It was the largest subscriber growth for the year-old Peacock service.

The growth was driven in part by the ongoing 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics as well as expedited access to Boss Baby: Family Business and original series “Dr. Death,” according to Comcast Corp. chairman/CEO Brian Roberts.

“This is 50% higher than our last report,” Roberts said on the fiscal call, adding that the current third quarter has been “particularly” strong in consumer awareness of the Peacock brand.

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“We are unlikely to replicate such [subscription] performance [going forward], but we remain optimistic,” he said.

Roberts said that later this year, Sky, the European-based satellite TV platform would include Peacock to its 20 million subscribers at no additional cost.

“The benefits of this launch are tremendous,” he said, adding that the expanded Peacock marketing would enhance advertising and brand opportunities worldwide.

“The decision to make Peacock the anchor tenet on the X1 and Flex platforms for its domestic launch [in 2020], is a key driver of brand awareness, scale, consumption, promotion,” Roberts said. “We see a similar opportunity with Sky.”

Finally, Roberts said the Tokyo Games would be profitable for NBCUniversal despite the absence of spectators in the competition venues and reduced prime-time TV viewers through the first days of the quadrennial event.

Netflix, Disney+, Hulu Take on Peacock in Tokyo Olympics Ad Competition

On the first prime time competitions broadcast July 24 of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics on NBC, Netflix made a quiet entry into the TV commercial competition.

The 30-second spot highlighting original content aired during broadcast of Team USA’s first medals at the Games, when male and female swimmers snatched six medals, including the country’s first Gold by Chase Kalisz in the men’s 400-meter individual medley.

Disney+ and Hulu carried ad spots on the second primetime broadcast on July 25.

The price for a 30-second prime-time commercial at the Tokyo Games reportedly exceeds $1 million.

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The Netflix spot was the only SVOD promo to go up against NBCUniversal’s non-stop run of commercials for Peacock, the hybrid SVOD/AVOD platform launched a year ago. The Games NBC Sports host Mike Tirico shrewdly called out Peacock screen shots that viewers could toggle to watch ongoing competition in other sports (women’s softball) as well as VOD recaps of the men’s cycling road race.

Netflix ended the most-recent fiscal period with almost 210 million global subscribers. It also lost 430,000 net subs in North America.

NBCUniversal is pulling out the stops in an effort to jumpstart Peacock, which reported 42 million sign-ups through the first quarter (ended March 31), but reportedly just 10 million paying subscribers — suggesting the service needs an Olympian boost.

Peacock is featuring live coverage of some the Games’ biggest events, including gymnastics, track & field, and the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team’s pursuit of their fourth straight gold. In addition, Peacock will feature new daily live shows, original programming, Olympics channels and curated highlights of NBC Olympics’ coverage. All of Peacock’s Tokyo Olympics programming will be available to stream for free, with exception of USA Men’s Basketball live coverage that will only be available to Peacock Premium subscribers.

Regardless, the Games’ appeal to U.S. TV viewers could be declining. The network’s broadcast of the opening ceremony reportedly drew 16.7 million viewers, the smallest U.S. TV audience for the event in the past 33 years. At the same time, streaming viewership increased to 17 million across all digital platforms, including NBCOlympics.com.

DEG International Adds Co-Chairs Joe Braman, Ruth Sharp

The Digital Entertainment Group International (DEGI) July 5 confirmed a new line-up for its Board of Directors, with Joe Braman, VP of international account management at NBCUniversal, and Ruth Sharp, VP and head of digital distribution at Warner Media UK and Ireland, both joining as Co-Chairs, effective immediately.

Joe Braman

The DEGI exists to support and enhance the home entertainment industry, driving consumer engagement with new and emerging technologies across an increasing number of international territories.

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Braman and Sharp join the board amid a year that has seen the DEGI successfully implement territory-first activations, including Mega Movie Week Germany and the Nordic Hitlist weekly film chart, among other promotions.

Ruth Sharp

Braman and Sharp join Amy Jo Smith as director, and Liz Bales as CEO, and will lead the charge on growing value for DEGI members, while driving a category-level strategy for market growth.

“With so much change in windowing and access to content, DEGI plays a vital role in bringing key stakeholders together to drive industry collaboration and category growth,” Braman said in a statement. “I look forward to working closely with Ruth, Liz and Amy Jo to continue the great work DEGI have delivered to date.”

“As the digital entertainment world changes faster than ever before … providing a forum for creating growth strategies and sharing insights, it’s exciting to be working with the DEGI group to extend our activations and grow consumer engagement in the category,” Sharp said.

Braman and Sharp take over from previous co-chairs, Chris Duffy and Nicola Pearcey. Duffy, formerly head of insight and planning at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, is departing the DEGI having made invaluable contributions to the market-shifting activations delivered by the DEGI team over the past few years. Pearcey steps down as co-chair after 10 years, and has steered the organization from its European roots to an international presence, and pioneered DEGI’s Future Building program.

Stepping down as president of Lionsgate U.K. and setting up new venture Picnik Entertainment, Pearcy will move into a senior independent director role on the board, bringing vital insight from the independent production community.

Speaking about the future of the DEGI, CEO Liz Bales said the strength and diversity of the DEGI board spans production, distribution and retail delivering value for stakeholders across the category.

“We are excited to be working such exceptional talent and extend a warm welcome to Joe and Ruth as co-chairs, and we look forward to benefiting from the collective experience and input of the board as we drive our next projects,” she said.

Peacock Gets Amazon Fire TV Distribution

NBCUniversal’s SVOD/AVOD platform Peacock is finally getting distribution on Amazon Fire TV — a gateway (along with Roku) the streaming service has lacked since launching a year ago. The absence, say many observers, has contributed to sluggish subscriber growth for Peacock, while app downloads have increased.

NBCUniversal and Amazon disclosed that Peacock, along with 15 network apps, would be made available on Fire TV and Fire tablets in the United States beginning June 24. Amazon, along with Roku, reportedly represent gateways to 70% of connected homes domestically.

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In a virtual call last month with a Wall Street investor group, Comcast Corp. chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said he was looking for more Peacock sign-ups going forward.

Comcast reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups (not subscribers) through the end of the fiscal period ended March 31. But that tally includes three access options, including a free ad-supported option with limited content; a $4.99 monthly option with ads; and a $9.99 ad-free tier.

The Wall Street Journal last month reported that only about 10 million people actually pay for Peacock on a monthly basis.

Peacock to Stream Tokyo Olympics Live, Including Gymnastics, Track & Field, and Basketball 

Peacock June 23 announced it will launch a Tokyo Olympics destination on July 15, featuring live coverage of some the Games’ marquee events, including gymnastics, track & field, and the U.S. men’s basketball team’s pursuit of their fourth straight gold medal. In addition, Peacock will feature new daily live shows, original programming, Olympics channels, full event replays and curated highlights of NBC’s Olympics coverage.

All Tokyo Olympics programming will be available to stream for free (with ads), with the exception of men’s basketball live coverage that will be available to Peacock Premium subscribers. The platform will feature live coverage every morning of men’s and women’s gymnastics and men’s and women’s track and field.

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Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila will host Peacock’s morning show ”Tokyo LIVE.” Two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez will serve as a studio analyst for gymnastics along with Olympic medalist Bridget Sloan and three-time Olympian John Roethlisberger calling the action live across all men’s and women’s gymnastics events: the team finals, the all around competition, and individual event finals.

Peacock will stream the fastest women and men in the world competing for gold in the 100 meter on July 31 and Aug. 1, respectively. Track & Field live coverage also includes the 4 x 100 meter relay, 4 x 400 meter relay, 200 meter and 400 meter. Bill Spaulding will call track & field play-by-play alongside Olympian analysts Tim Hutchings and Alysia Montano.

As home to men’s basketball, Peacock will stream live coverage of the games, beginning with USA vs. France on July 25. Bob Fitzgerald will call play-by-play alongside analysts Fran Fraschilla and Vince Carter, gold medalist and eight-time NBA All-Star.

Peacock will make it easy for fans to catch up and keep up on the Tokyo Games with new hosts and contributors, channels, curated playlists, highlights, and full event replays.

Amber Ruffin, host, writer and executive producer of Peacock’s late-night series ”The Amber Ruffin Show,” will be on the ground in Tokyo providing her own unique, comedic analyses of the competition, as well as a look-back at her own experiences in the world of sports.

Former ESPN host Rich Eisen will spearhead “Tokyo Gold,”  a daily, comprehensive look at the most compelling performances of the day including in-depth stories, expert analysis, and athlete interviews.

Lindsay Czarniak, Lolo Jones and MJ Acosta-Ruiz will host ”On Her Turf at the Olympics,” the first NBC Olympics show dedicated to covering women’s sports at the Games. Katie Ledecky, Allyson Felix, Alex Morgan, April Ross, and Alix Klineman will be among athletes featured.

Cari Champion and ex-ESPN host Kenny Maynewill host “Tokyo Tonight,” which will bring fans into the Games with quick turnaround highlights as well as interviews and feature stories every evening. Jac Collinsworth will serve as contributor to Tokyo Tonight on-location in Tokyo.

“Tokyo LIVE,” “Tokyo Gold,” “On Her Turf at the Olympics” and  “Tokyo Tonight” all stream daily on ”Tokyo Now,” which will be complemented by five additional channels, including:

  • Great Moments: launching June 23, a collection of the most thrilling moments of past Olympics
  • Meet the Olympians: profiles and documentaries about top athletes, past and present
  • Must-See Moments: buzziest moments from past Games​​
  • Team USA: highlights of Team USA competing for gold medals in Tokyo​​
  • Tokyo Flame: an always-on livestream of the Olympic flame​ for people who just want to bask in the glow of the Games

 

will curate highlights and full event replays by sport to make it easy for fans to stay current on the 7,000 hours of NBC Olympics coverage.

In addition to Olympics-focused Peacock Originals already available to stream, including: “The ’96 Effect,” “Michael Phelps: Medals Memories and More,” “The Greatest Race,” “In Deep with Ryan Lochte,” and “My Pursuit: Life, Legacy & Jordan Burroughs, Peacock will continue to roll out new original programming leading up to and throughout the Olympics, including:

  • “Olympic Highlights with Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg”: This funny commentary series, co-hosted by sports and Olympics enthusiasts Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg, will recap the Olympics’ most impressive displays of athleticism, as well as the moments that don’t go as planned. Kevin and Snoop will be your comedy guides through the Tokyo Olympics. The series is produced by Hart’s LOL Studios. Paul Pawlowski will serve as showrunner and executive producer, along with executive producers Hart, Jeff Clanagan, and Candice Wilson Cherry.
  • “For Ball and Country”: With the USA Men’s Basketball Team’s fourth consecutive gold medal on the line at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, there is much at stake. The show will follow the greatest men’s basketball players in America as they set aside their on-court rivalries and form a star-studded team to represent their country. In addition to an all-access look at the 2021 team’s training camp in Las Vegas, the series goes into USA Basketball video vault with never-before-seen footage of this storied program. From the iconic 1992 team to the “Redeem Team” to today, the documentary will provide a unique look into some of the greatest teams ever assembled. The show is produced by Winik Media in association with USA Basketball and NBA Entertainment.
  • “Golden”: This series follows elite American gymnasts Laurie Hernandez, Morgan Hurd, Sunisa Lee, Konnor McClain, and MyKayla Skinner on their individual and intertwining journeys as Team USA hopefuls leading up to the Tokyo Olympics. The series reveals how their preparation for the Games was fundamentally altered by the pandemic, over a five-month period as they continue their grueling training regimens.
  • The Sisters of ’96; The 1996 USA Women’s Olympic Soccer Team: When the U.S. Women’s National Team made it to the Olympic soccer in Atlanta, their gold medal match was not fully televised. Now, Peacock is making it available in full for the first time and debuting an hour-long special that reunites stars Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Briana Scurry, and Tisha Venturini. For the first time, the women will come together on the field where they played that inaugural Olympic final to watch the match together and give viewers have a front-row seat as they recount their victory and the lasting legacy of their team.

Report: 28% of Tokyo Olympics Viewers Plan to Stream Event

With NBCUniversal promising more than 7,000 hours of broadcast and streaming coverage from the Tokyo Olympics July 23 to Aug. 8, new data from Amdocs found that many viewers will consume the games via over-the-top video distribution.

According to data from a May online survey of 1,000 respondents, 48% said they are going to watch the Olympics, and nearly one-third (28%) are planning to watch via streaming services.

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Indeed, 43% are planning to watch via live cable, but social media (16%) and on-demand services (15%) are also popular options; 48% would pay more to get every event on-demand.

Consumers are starting to lean on sporting events to bring back the social aspect of their viewing experience, according to the report. More than one-third (37%) of respondents said they feel comfortable going to a bar to watch the Olympics, and 35% said they are planning to watch the games with friends and family.

While some aren’t comfortable with in-person events (36%), they still yearn for the social component, with 18% interested in virtual viewing parties and 14% interested in Olympics-themed online gaming through Twitch. Many consumers are maintaining habits developed during the height of the pandemic, with 15% planning to watch via on-demand services, and an additional 16% planning to watch via social media channels.

Interestingly, 46% said would pay more for 5G services to improve their wireless connectivity during the games; and 17% said they would invest in a service that has improved cross-device capabilities.

Among the Olympic sports events most in demand, respondents are excited to watch gymnastics (46%), swimming (43%), and the opening/closing ceremonies (40%).