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%).

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.

Peacock Orders Original Series Based on ‘Ted’ ‘R’-Rated Comedies

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service June 10 announced a straight-to-series order for “Ted,” from Universal Content Productions (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group, and MRC Television.

The series is based on the Universal Pictures/MRC movie Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and the highest-grossing original ‘R’-rated comedy of all time. Collectively Ted and Ted 2 grossed more than $765 million worldwide.

Creator Seth MacFarlane is in negotiations to reprise the voice of the lovable foul-mouthed teddy bear Ted. The live-action series will be executive produced by MacFarlane and Erica Huggins for Fuzzy Door.

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This is the second series order since MacFarlane and Fuzzy Door signed an overall development deal with UCP in 2020. Earlier this year, Peacock announced a series order of “The End is Nye,” hosted by Bill Nye. The series is produced by Universal Television Alternative Studio and UCP, divisions of Universal Studio Group, and Fuzzy Door.

UCP is responsible for series such as Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Act,” “Monk,” “Homecoming,” “The Sinner,” “Suits,” “Dirty John” and “Psych.”  Upcoming titles include “Dr. Death,” starring Joshua Jackson, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater; and “Gaslit” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn.

MRC’s series have been nominated for 94 Emmy Awards and 18 Golden Globe Awards. The current slate includes “Ozark,” from Chris Mundy and starring Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner, on Netflix; “The Great,” from Tony McNamara, starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, on Hulu; “The Shrink Next Door,” starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd and from director Michael Showalter and writer Georgia Pritchett for Apple TV+; “The Terminal List,” for which Chris Pratt stars and executive produces alongside director Antoine Fuqua and writer David DiGilio, with Amazon Studios; “Shining Girls,” starring Elisabeth Moss and produced with Appian Way and Love & Squalor Pictures  for Apple TV+; the Rian Johnson series “Poker Face,” with T-Street and starring Natasha Lyonne for Peacock; and “Hello Tomorrrow!” starring Billy Crudup, from creators Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen and director Jonathan Entwistle for Apple TV+.

MRC’s previous series included Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Counterpart,” among others.

NBCUniversal Aiming for 7,000 Hours of Tokyo Olympics Coverage

Japan may only have a small minority of its citizens vaccinated, with a majority opposed to the country hosting next month’s delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, but that’s not stopping NBCUniversal from pulling out all the stops to broadcast and stream the games.

The media giant June 7 announced it would broadcast and stream upwards of 7,000 hours of coverage throughout the quadrennial spectacle taking place July 23 to Aug. 8 across myriad properties, including NBC, USA, CNBC, NBCSN and Peacock.

“We are going to deliver the most comprehensive — and accessible — coverage for any sports event in history,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. “The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these games and our times.”

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NBCUniversal and corporate parent Comcast have spent billions of dollars securing U.S. distribution rights to the Olympics through 2032.

Despite press claiming most Japanese were opposed to holding the games due to the pandemic, a new poll from Yomiuri Shimbun claimed that 50% of respondents want the games to be held this summer, with another 48% saying the event should be canceled. The paper’s previous poll had found 59% of respondents opposed to the games taking place. The telephone poll, conducted over three days from June 4 to 6, found 26% of the 1,070 respondents want the Olympics to be held without spectators, while 24% favored venues with limited seating.

Xumo TV Joins Apple TV Platform

NBCUniversal’s Xumo TV has joined the Apple TV platform — now making the ad-supported VOD service with 10 million average monthly users available on three major streaming platforms, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

“According to Comscore’s most recent State of OTT report, more than 30% of Americans stream video via internet connected televisions,” Chris Hall, SVP of product at Xumo, said in a statement.

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NBCUniversal, which launched the Peacock SVOD service last summer, acquired Irvine, Calif.-based Xumo in January 2020 for $100 million as it sought to further diversify video distribution beyond premium cable.

“As streaming audiences grow, Xumo’s 200-plus diverse, free and popular channels are more widely accessible than ever, across all of the devices that people use the most,” Hall said. “With this level of distribution, we are continuing to deliver in-demand content to tens of millions of consumers.”

Comcast CFO: We Would Like to See More Peacock Sign-Ups

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh

Since launching the Peacock streaming platform last July, NBCUniversal has been coy about how many subscribers the service actually has. Corporate parent Comcast reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups through the end of the fiscal period ended March 31. But that tally is largely window dressing since the platform affords users with a free ad-supported option with limited content; a $4.99 monthly option with ads; and a $9.99 ad-free tier.

Speaking May 26 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh shed some further light on the metrics, saying about one-third (or 13.8 million) of sign-ups use Peacock on a monthly basis. How many of them are paying a subscription remains unclear.

“We certainly would like to see more signups, more hours used,” Cavanagh said, adding the platform remains a work-in-progress convincing users to stream live sports (Premier League soccer), original sitcoms such as “Rutherford Falls,” “Friends” re-runs and live news going forward.

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With Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ announcing monthly paid subscribers tallies of 207 million, 175 million and 103 million, respectively, Peacock has a subscriber gap of sorts to bridge. Indeed, Hulu, in which Comcast owns a 33% stake, ended the most-recent fiscal period with almost 38 million subs — 41.6 million when including online TV service Hulu + Live TV.

“We’re learning as we go [on Peacock],” Cavanagh said. “And that is shaping our plans as we go forward. We’ve brought content production back. Working on getting Peacock on other platforms.”

Cavanagh says NBCUniversal has the personnel and industry contacts in place to make Peacock grow ands thrive.

“By no means is streaming easy, for anybody,” said the executive. “I don’t mean to say that we have it all figured out. We’ll continue to view the world in streaming through a [strategic] lense. It’s early days.”

Cavanagh said the big bets being placed by media companies on global SVOD do not represent a path of success for everybody. On the heels of AT&T spinning off a minority stake in WarnerMedia, which includes HBO Max, and Amazon’s announced $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, media reports suggested Comcast chairman Brian Roberts had been interested in both WarnerMedia and MGM — the latter for about $6 billion.

Cavanagh said the cable giant has no immediate plans to jump into the mergers & acquisition market.

“We’re playing our own hand,” he said. “Scale is a word that requires some discussion. Do we have the advantages that we need? We like the portfolio of the businesses we have. We like the hand we have without M&A, but we’ll obviously do what’s right for shareholders as time passes.”