Universal’s ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ Heads to Peacock March 10

Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in the Boots: The Last Wish is headed to the Peacock streaming platform March 10. The arrival marks NBCUniversal’s ongoing push to expedite pushing original theatrical movies from the box office to alternative distribution channels, including streaming video.

The movie joins other DreamWorks titles on Peacock, including the “Shrek” franchise, The Croods and Trolls World Tour. Fans can also enjoy the family-friendly series “Puss In Boots Shorts.”

The Last Wish is also the latest addition to Peacock’s library of recent theatrical films — including M3GANSpoiler AlertTárViolent NightShe SaidTicket to ParadiseBrosNope and Mid-Century — that have experienced theatrical windows around 21 days or less before heading to retail channels, sometime concurrently.

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Comcast CFO: Expedited Content Windows for Peacock a Success

NBCUniversal’s decision to abbreviate the box office window to 21 days on many releases — while Universal Pictures tallied the second-highest box office take in 2022 — remains an ongoing strategy, according to Comcast CFO Jason Armstrong.

The company is expediting release of titles to digital in the premium digital rental and sales window as well as to Peacock paid streaming subscribers.

Universal Pictures’ 2022 box office tally was driven by Jurassic World Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Nope, The Bad Guys, The Black Phone, Halloween Ends, Violent Night, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Sing 2, among other titles.

Comcast CFO Jason Armstrong

Speaking Feb. 27 at the 31st Annual Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom confab in Palm Beach, Fla., Armstrong said early access to Universal movies on Peacock helped grow the platform’s paid subscriber base by 5 million in the most-recent fiscal quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2022), which translated to 11 million new subs for the year for a total of 20 million.

Average monthly Peacock user engagement now stands at around 20 hours.

“Content success and availability has largely driven that,” Armstrong said, adding that legacy Pay 1 movie distribution windows to third parties, live access to World Cup soccer and the NFL, licensed Hulu content, and next-day access to Bravo shows have all transitioned to Peacock.

The CFO said early viewer response to Peacock original shows “Poker Face” and “The Traitors” has been encouraging as well.

“That’s all beneficial to streaming,” Armstrong said, adding that all episodic programming, in addition to live sports, is now jointly licensed for concurrent linear TV and streaming distribution.

The executive said that while linear TV subscriptions and advertising revenue is declining, the business remains highly profitable.

“We have to preserve the cashflow characteristics of [linear TV], but doing so with an eye towards making sure we’re migrating to streaming for the right continuum,” Armstrong said.

At the same time, NBCUniversal’s heavy emphasis on streaming has skyrocketed related opportunity and technology costs in the direct-to-consumer business segment, resulting in a projected $3 billion operating loss in 2023.

“We said this year would be the peak loss year and we look to rebound after 2023,” Armstrong said. “The trajectory beyond this is more favorable.”

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Peacock recently disclosed it would no longer accept new free ad-supported subscribers, in a move that will eventually force existing Xfinity pay-TV subscribers to pay for SVOD access.

“We think there is a big market for [less-expensive] paid AVOD subscription service,” Armstrong said. “When we were leaning into streaming, we were early to figure out that was going to be a super interesting large market segment to target. The good news is that linear plus streaming is a growth business. That’s true for us [and] that’s true for the industry.”

Comcast Wins Tech Emmy Award for Sports Viewing Innovation on Peacock, Sky, Xfinity

Comcast Feb. 21 announced it has received a technology and engineering Emmy award for its sports viewing experiences across the Xfinity, Sky and Peacock platforms. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized Comcast for using artificial intelligence to provide viewers with an easier way to catch up on key moments from live sporting events.

Specifically, Comcast’s VideoAI technology analyzes video streams in real-time and detects key moments using various audio, visual and textual cues. For sports, these include points/goals, penalties, and other major moments. As the live event unfolds, indexed highlights are compiled as they happen into an interactive format, giving viewers a quick summary of the most important highlights after the play/moment has concluded.

“[Artificial intelligence] is a transformative technology, giving us the ability to rethink how we deliver innovative entertainment experiences to our global customers,” Fraser Stirling, global chief product officer, at Comcast, said in a statement.

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NBCUniversal bowed the AI technology on Peacock for its Premier League soccer matches. “Peacock Key Plays” puts highlights as they happen on an interactive timeline that can be accessed at any point during a live match, giving customers the ability to watch just one key moment or all of them as a playlist.

On Xfinity, AI is available on DVR recordings of select events like the FIFA Soccer World Cup, tagging key plays in the recording’s playback bar, giving viewers a quick way to recap all the biggest moments. Xfinity recently made Sports Highlights available for the FIFA World Cup and plans to extend the feature to more sports this year.

Comcast is now offering the technology to distribution customers as part of its product suite, producing actionable metadata to drive a continuously expanding number of use cases, from content discovery to contextual advertising.

Comcast Ending Free Subscriber Access to Peacock Streaming Service

Comcast Xfinity pay-TV and Flex members are losing free access to the Peacock streaming service.

Since the launch of the Peacock subscription streaming video platform on April 15, 2020, Comcast Xfinity pay-TV and Flex members have had free access to the $4.99 monthly (with ads)/$9.99 (without ads) service.

Beginning April 3, new Xfinity pay-TV subs and Flex users will have to pay for Peacock, which ended the most-recent fiscal period with 20 million paid subscribers — the lowest tally among major SVOD platforms. Current Xfinity/Flex members will have to begin paying for Peacock beginning June 26. The details were disclosed in an internal Comcast memo posted on social media platform Reddit.

“As part of Peacock’s growth strategy, we are shifting our focus to the Premium offering, which is more reflective of the brand and the unique experience we can bring subscribers,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson said in a statement first reported by Cord Cutters News.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, at a recent Wall Street event, indicated Xfinity subscribers would have to begin paying for Peacock “at some point.” Peacock stopped offering free ad-supported access at the beginning of February.

Peacock Bowing ‘Watch With’ Feature Enabling Streamers to Interact With Content Talent in Real Time

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform is launching a new social media feature that enables viewers to interact with talent on select shows in real time, including during Q&A sessions.

Dubbed “Watch With,” the feature is set to launch Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. ET, a day after the season two premiere of “Bel-Air,” with stars  Jabari Banks and Olly Sholotan. Pending content utilizing the feature includes “Eurovision” with two-time Winter Olympian and NBC figure skating analyst Johnny Weir and “The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip” with Candace Dillard Bassett and Marysol Patton.

The concept was first tested last year with the “Real Housewives of Miami” reality show featuring Larsa Pippen and Patton.

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“After exceeding our viewership forecasts, we’re highly encouraged by the first test of ‘Watch With’ as a way to super-serve fans with a live communal viewing experience,” John Jelley, SVP of product and UX for Peacock and direct-to-consumer at NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

The feature is set to join Peacock’s other interactive feature — “Choose Your Reality” — enabling viewers to delve deeper into select scenes of the third season of “The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip.”

“We’re looking to continue experimenting with in-product innovations that enhance the streaming experience and break into the cultural zeitgeist,” Jelley said.

Peacock Drops AVOD Tier, Focusing on Paid Subscribers

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform has dropped its free ad-supported option for new subscribers. The service, which added 5 million paid subscribers in the most-recent fiscal period, is focusing on growing the $4.99 (with ads) and $9.99 (without ads) subscription tiers. Current AVOD subscribers will be able to continue accessing limited content.

Peacock, which ended 2022 with 20 million paid subscribers, is also offering one year of the $4.99 monthly option for $29.99 (regularly $49.99) to new subscribers for a limited time.

NBCUniversal attributes the surge in Peacock paid subscribers in part to the availability of Universal Pictures’ growing library of films, including Oscar-nominated Tár, Violent Night, She Said, Ticket to Paradise, Bros, Nope, Mid-Century, The Silent Twins and Halloween Ends, among others.

The aggressive promotion underscores NBCUniversal’s attempt to narrow Peacock’s gap with competing SVOD platforms, including Hulu with 43 million, Paramount+ with 46 million subs, HBO/HBO Max with 92 million, Disney+ with 164 million and Netflix with 231 million.

The news was first reported by The Streamable.

Peacock to Stream Focus Features’ ‘Spoiler Alert’ on Feb. 3

NBCUniversal streaming platform Peacock is set to begin streaming Focus Features’ gay-themed love story Spoiler Alert beginning Feb. 3. Starring Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) as a entertainment journalist who is leery of social dating apps who ends up having a 14-year relationship with photographer partner, Kit (Ben Aldridge).

The movie, which is currently available on PVOD for $19.99 rental and $24.99 purchase, generated almost $1.4 million at the box office since its Dec. 2, 2022, limited release in six theaters.

The movie is Peacock’s latest theatrical release to transition to SVOD, along with the latest addition to Peacock’s growing library of iconic films, including Oscar-nominated Tár Violent Night, She Said, Ticket to Paradise, Bros, Nope, Mid-Century, The Silent Twins and Halloween Ends, among others.

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NBCUniversal’s Peacock Streaming Service Ended 2022 With 20 Million Paid Subs, $2.5 Billion Loss

NBCUniversal’s Peacock subscription streaming/ad-supported video platform ended 2022 with more than 20 million paid subscribers, doubling the service’s subs since the end of 2021. The service ended the previous third quarter with 15 million paid subs. Revenue topped $2.1 billion, up 170% from revenue of $778 million in 2021. Peacock is available free to Comcast Xfinity subscribers and related service members.

On the flipside, Peacock’s pre-tax Q4 operating loss ballooned nearly 75% to $978 million, compared with a loss of 559 million in the previous-year period. Revenue increased 97% to $660 million, from $335 million in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, Peacock’s operating loss increased 47% to $2.5 billion, from a loss of $1.7 billion in 2021.

Speaking on the Jan. 26 fiscal call, Mike Cavanagh, president of Comcast Corporation, said he expects Peacock’s fiscal loss to plateau around $3 billion this year before declining.

“As we’ve said previously, we believe 2023 will be peak losses for Peacock and from there steadily improve,” he said.

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‘M3GAN’ Becomes Latest Theatrical Hit to Earn Early PVOD Release

Universal Pictures’ surprise box office hit M3GAN is now available for rent or purchase across myriad digital platforms at $19.99 and $24.99, respectively.

The move is consistent with NBCUniversal’s strategy to push theatrical releases into retail channels as early as 17 days.

M3GAN, about a life-like artificial intelligence doll given to a young niece (Violet McGraw) by her robotics engineer aunt (Allison Williams) after the girl’s parents are killed in an automobile accident, generated more than $30 million in North American ticket sales in its Jan. 6-8 theatrical debut. The movie has earned $125.4 million in global revenue (on a $13 million production budget) through Jan. 22.

M3GAN, which remains in theaters, has become a comedy bit on “Saturday Night Live” and reportedly inspired social media buzz with the rival movie doll rival of the “Chucky” franchise. Drew Barrymore, on her “Drew Barrymore Show,” also dressed up as M3GAN for a parody skit, which inspired a rash of social media mentions.

M3GAN been greenlighted for a sequel debuting in 2025.

Williams (Get Out) co-hosted the 95th Academy Awards nominations webcast Jan. 24.

WBD Offering Discovery+ Streaming Service Free to Sky Pay-TV Subs

Eager to extend distribution of the Discovery+ subscription streaming platform in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Warner Bros. Discovery has inked a marketing deal with NBCUniversal-owned Sky Group offering all Sky pay-TV subscribers, including Sky Q, Sky Glass and Sky Stream, free access to Discovery+. The 12-month marketing campaign saves Sky subscribers £6.99 a month ($8.53).

Warner Bros. Discovery is set to unveil a new combined HBO Max/Discovery+ streaming platform this year.

“Through this offering we can bring our extensive real-life entertainment and exciting sports line-up, with the Australian Open starting today, to even more Sky customers,” Antonio Ruiz, GM of U.K. & Ireland Warner Bros. Discovery, said in a statement.