NBCUniversal Reportedly Considering Distributing All Movies Through Peacock After Normal Theatrical, Transactional Runs; Netflix Grabs ‘Knives Out’ Sequel

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.

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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.

Knives Out







Peacock Streaming Service Making All Seasons of ‘The Office’ Available for Free for a Week

To mark the 16th anniversary of “The Office,” NBC Universal’s Peacock streaming service is making all nine seasons of the original series available for free for one week, through March 24.

Previously on Peacock, only the first two seasons of the series had been available to watch for free (with ads), with consumers having to pay for access to the remaining seven seasons and their extras.

Series fans can post an original video or image on Twitter and Instagram demonstrating their fandom, such as fan art, a video tour of their ‘Office’ swag shelf, an ode to the show or a scene recreation. Over the next week, fans can share their videos and images honoring #TheOffice. To enter, fans can follow and tag @peacocktv, and use #Dundies2021Contest.

Peacock will select the five best displays of fandom and award those users a Dundie trophy, merch and more.

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Entries must be in by March 22 at 8 p.m. ET.

Kate Flannery, who played Meredith, will announce the winners on March 24. A message from her is here.

NFL Inks New Carriage Deals With NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS; Includes Landmark Streaming on Peacock, Paramount+ and Pluto TV

The National Football League March 18 announced separate 11-year carriage/streaming video distribution deals with NBCUniversal and  ViacomCBS. The pacts include notable live-game streaming rights to games on Peacock, Paramount+, and in a first — Pluto TV — underscoring OTT video’s increased presence in live sports programming in the United States.

With the new agreements, which begin with the 2023 NFL season, NBC and Peacock will present “Sunday Night Football” through 2033 — a span of 28 seasons for NBC as the home of the NFL’s top-rated primetime package (since its 2006 debut). In addition, beginning with the upcoming 2021 season, Peacock will stream all “Sunday Night Football” games and the “Football Night in America” studio show. Peacock will also produce a new expanded postgame show following SNF each week.

“Sunday Night Football’ has been television’s most-watched primetime show for a decade, and we look forward to continuing our presentation of SNF, Super Bowls, and playoff games for many years to come, while also broadening our audience with Peacock becoming the live streaming home for all NBC NFL games,” Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a statement.

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NBC Sports, which produced the first-ever NFL broadcast on Oct. 22, 1939 (Philadelphia Eagles-Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field), will present four of the next 13 Super Bowls, including three Super Bowls as part of the new agreement. Home of the upcoming Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in February 2022, NBC and Peacock will broadcast and stream Super Bowls in February 2026, February 2030 and February 2034. NBC Sports’ presentation of Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015 is the most-watched show in U.S. television history (114.4 million viewers on NBC).

Meanwhile, CBS Sports continues as the home of the NFL’s American Football Conference (AFC), with all games broadcast on the CBS Television Network and streamed live on Paramount+. This historic agreement also grants an expansive list of NFL rights across ViacomCBS networks and platforms (i.e. Pluto TV), enabling the company to maximize its content creation, distribution and reach throughout the length of the deal.

The new agreement allows for CBS Sports to broadcast and stream more Sunday afternoon games and includes an expanded schedule of games featuring teams from the National Football Conference (NFC). In addition, the schedule is highlighted by 10 CBS doubleheaders, including Sundays at 4:25 p.m. ET, eight single-headers and the annual Thanksgiving Day game. CBS Sports will broadcast three Super Bowls over the length of the deal, including the first in the new agreement, Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, as well as Super Bowl LXII in 2028 and Super Bowl LXVI in 2032.

The CBS Television Network and Paramount+ will also present a full slate of playoff games, featuring the AFC Championship game, one Divisional game and one Wild Card game. A second Wild Card game will be added to the CBS Sports lineup during the 2024, 2029 and 2033 seasons.

ViacomCBS will retain extensive in-market exclusivity, ensuring that the CBS-affiliated stations and ViacomCBS platforms will continue to have local availability of “The NFL on CBS.” CBS will also gain increased rights to protect games from being flexed to other networks and time slots.

“Today’s groundbreaking deal ensures that more big games will be available on CBS and Paramount+, with greater NFL programming opportunities featured across all ViacomCBS platforms, including Pluto TV, vastly expanding the NFL’s reach among younger audiences in a rapidly evolving media landscape,” said CEO Bob Bakish.


Peacock Original Native American Comedy ‘Rutherford Falls’ Releases on April 22

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service is set to premiere original comedy series “Rutherford Falls” on April 22. Two lifelong best friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), find themselves at a crossroads — quite literally — when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wake-up call. Michael Greyeyes (“I Know This Much Is True”), Jesse Leigh (Heathers) and Dustin Milligan (“Schitt’s Creek”) co-star.

The series represents a breakthrough of sorts in Native American representation in comedy television both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to Schmieding (Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux) and Greyeyes (Nêhiyaw from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation), there are five Native writers on staff, representing one of the largest Indigenous writer’s rooms on television.

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Writers include co-creator and executive producer Sierra Teller Ornelas (Navajo), Bobby Wilson (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Tai Leclaire (Kanien’kehá:ka [Mohawk Nation]/Mi’kmaq), Schmieding, and Tazbah Chavez (Nüümü [Bishop Paiute Tribe], Diné [Navajo], San Carlos Apache).

The show’s co-creators and executive producers include Michael Schur (“Parks and Recreation,” “The Good Place”), Helms and Sierra Teller Ornelas (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Superstore”). Mike Falbo, David Miner and Morgan Sackett also serve as executive producers. The series is produced by Universal Television.

News Analysis: Subs, Hype and Debt: Another Week in the Pursuit of Netflix-Like Relevance

NEWS ANALYSIS — Executives at media giants Disney, Comcast and AT&T took to virtual online events this week (and prior) to brag and cajole Wall Street investors regarding efforts to narrow the divide between their respective over-the-top video platforms and market behemoth Netflix.

The tape measures came out early with Disney CEO Bob Chapek announcing that the company’s branded SVOD platform, Disney+, had just surpassed 100 million subscribers, less than a month after reaching 95 million — but still less than 50% of Netflix’s 203 million subs at the end of 2020.

“The enormous success of Disney+ has inspired us to be even more ambitious,” Chapek said, adding the service plans to release 100-plus new titles per year across its Disney Pixar Animation, Disney Live Action, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic brands.

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By comparison, Netflix released more than three times that (371 movies and TV shows) in 2019, while reportedly launching 40 to 50 TV shows (some returning) and movies monthly in 2020. The SVOD pioneer earlier this month said it would alone bow 41 Indian movies and shows this year — a shot across the bow in response to the fact that 33% of Disney+ subs come from India.

Meanwhile, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar raised the bar on the company’s HBO Max service, telling investors he expects between 120 million and 150 million combined HBO Max/HBO subscribers by 2025 — up from the 75 million to 90 million projected in October 2019. The combined platforms ended 2020 with more than 41 million subs.

“We exceeded that milestone more than two years ahead of plan,” Kilar said. “The launch of Max has not only covered the decline in linear-TV subscribers, it has actually driven material growth.”

The co-founder/former CEO of Hulu told investors that based on third-party data, in-house number crunching, and a market-leading $14.99 monthly subscription fee, Max was the No. 2 revenue-generating SVOD in the United States — after Netflix.

When multiplying subs by subscription fees, HBO/HBO Max generated about $7.4 billion in revenue in 2020, compared with about $4.6 billion for Disney+. By comparison, Netflix generated $25 billion in revenue last year and added a record 37 million subs. Max plans to launch a lower priced, ad-supported option in June.

“The economics of Max’s growth are compelling,” Kilar said.

After a measured launch last summer, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service ended 2020 with 33 million app sign-ups or people who created accounts, but weren’t necessarily paying for the SVOD/AVOD hybrid service. Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts claimed Peacock was the second-fastest growing brand (after Zoom) during the pandemic.

But at what cost? The company quietly disclosed in a regulatory filing that Peacock lost $914 million in 2020, while generating $118 million in revenue. Neither HBO Max nor Disney+ are yet profitable. Much of the Peacock fiscal loss is due to opportunity costs associated with NBCUniversal diverting programming to Peacock rather than third-party content licensees — a fiscal conundrum not lost upon Roberts.

“During this year, one of my goals is to step back and comeback with, ‘Okay, we had this start [with Peacock], what are we going to do about it?’” he said.

Analyst Rich Greenfield with Lightshed Partners has a possible suggestion: consolidation. Greenfield contends NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia should merge OTT video operations rather than going it alone to create greater competitive scale in a saturated marketplace.

“We believe it is time for both AT&T and Comcast to abandon the fool’s gold of vertical integration of content and distribution and merge NBCUniversal with WarnerMedia,” Greenfield wrote in a blog post last November. “Abandoning grandiose plans and empire building is a tough psychological hump to overcome. However, it would be a wildly accretive outcome for investors.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock Orders ‘Dan Brown’s Langdon’ Series

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming video service has ordered the drama series “Dan Brown’s Langdon,” based on the world-renowned author’s international best-selling novel The Lost Symbol. The series follows the early adventures of famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who must solve a series of deadly puzzles to save his kidnapped mentor and thwart a global conspiracy.

The series is produced by CBS Studios, Imagine Television Studios and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group. The project was originally developed by NBC, and ordered to pilot last year by the network.

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“The team was blown away by this pilot and its enormous potential to become a big, binge-worthy hit, and our new structure enables us to move it to Peacock and give it every opportunity to make that happen,” Susan Rovner, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. “Our ability to pick up a great show is no longer limited by the confines of a network schedule, giving us the freedom to say ‘yes’ to shows we love and then find them the perfect home across our portfolio.”

The cast includes Ashley Zukerman (“Succession”), Valorie Curry (“Blair Witch”), Sumalee Montano (“10 Cloverfield Lane”), Rick Gonzalez (“Arrow”), Eddie Izzard (“Ocean’s Thirteen”) and Beau Knapp (“Seven Seconds”).

Disney+’s ‘Marvel Studios: Legends’ Top Rising Show, Netflix’s ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Again Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Disney+’s “Marvel Studios: Legends” was the top rising show and Netflix’s “Ginny & Georgia” was again the top binge program on the TV Time charts for the week ended March 7.

“Marvel Studios: Legends” is a docuseries that in each episode showcases individual characters in the Marvel Universe with footage from past films. It has spotlighted characters in Disney+’s popular series “WandaVision” and the upcoming “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” which premieres March 19.

“Ginny & Georgia,” which also came in at No. 8 on the rising show chart, hit screens Feb. 24. It follows angsty and awkward 15-year-old Ginny Miller, who often feels more mature than her 30-year-old mother, the dynamic Georgia Miller. After years on the run, Georgia desperately wants to put down roots in picturesque New England and give her family something they’ve never had — a normal life. But Georgia’s past threatens her and her family’s new way of life.

Taking the silver on the rising show chart was Peacock’s streaming series “Brave New World,” which debuted on the service back in July and is based on the science-fiction novel by Aldous Huxley. It was canceled in October after one season.

The bronze on the rising show chart went to Freeform’s “The Bold Type,” a series about the goings on at a magazine inspired by the life and career of former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine Joanna Coles.

“Attack on Titan” took the second spot on TV Time’s binge chart for the week, dropping from No. 1. The anime series is based on the manga and is set in a world where humanity lives within cities surrounded by enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as Titans.

Sandwiched on the binge chart between perennial binge favorites “Modern Family” (No. 3) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (No. 5) was the Disney+ superhero series “WandaVision” at No. 4. The first Disney+ series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany).

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by almost 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top Binge Shows Week Ended March 7 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Ginny & Georgia” (Netflix) — 4.54%
  2. “Attack on Titan” (NHK) — 2.44%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC U.S.) — 2.26%
  4. “WandaVision” (Disney+) — 1.95%
  5. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC U.S.) — 1.72%
  6. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.56%
  7. “The Office” (U.S.) (NBC) — 1.29%
  8. “New Amsterdam” (NBC) — 1.24%
  9. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) — 1.21%
  10. “Naruto Shippuden” (TV Tokyo) — 1.09%


Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended March 7 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Marvel Studios: Legends” (Disney+) — 93.9%
  2. “Brave New World” (Peacock) — 88.9%
  3. “The Bold Type” (Freeform) — 76.6%
  4. “FBI: Most Wanted” (CBS) — 72%
  5. “The Flash” (The CW) — 69.1%
  6. “Wynonna Earp” (Syfy) — 64.6%
  7. “FBI” (CBS) — 55.8%
  8. “Ginny & Georgia” (Netflix) — 50.5%
  9. “The Resident” (Fox) — 48.4%
  10. “Prodigal Son” (Fox) — 45.7%

WWE Network to Launch on Peacock March 18

Peacock will begin rolling out subscription streaming platform WWE Network content March 18, just before Fastlane, the first WWE pay-per-view event on the service. The new WWE platform on Peacock will include all past WrestleManias leading up to WrestleMania 37 — the latter streaming exclusively on Peacock.

WWE will have a dedicated page on Peacock where viewers can browse and access every PPV event in the last calendar year; current or most-recent-season episodes of WWE original series “Steve Austin’s The Broken Skull Sessions,” “WWE Chronicle” and “WWE Icons”; in-ring action with new weekly episodes of “NXT” the day after broadcast; as well as 2021 replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown” 30 days after air; documentaries, including Undertaker: The Last Ride, WWE 24 and WWE Untold; reality series, including “Total Bellas”; as well as collections of featured series, topical moments like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Week, and playlists showcasing current Superstars.

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Peacock will add WWE Network content to the library, making the entire WWE Network archive — including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history — available to stream on demand before SummerSlam.

Peacock Premium will be home to all upcoming PPV events and current seasons of WWE Original shows. In the free tier, Peacock will offer a new WWE channel; select WWE Original shows; reality shows like “Miz and Mrs.,” “Total Bellas,” and “Total Divas”; recent in-ring content; and new weekly episodes of select live shows like “RAW Talk” and “The Bump,” both live and on demand.

When WWE sunsets the existing standalone WWE Network app on April 4, Peacock will be the exclusive streaming home to WWE Network in the United States. To continue streaming WWE Network content, subscribers will need to sign up for Peacock. As previously announced, WWE Network, including all PPVs, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5.00/month savings. Starting March 8, Peacock is also offering deeper savings for a limited time — details are available at www.PeacockTV.com/WWE.

Peacock Premium is included at no additional cost for Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and Cox Contour customers. Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast, and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation 5; and VIZIO SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts: Peacock Second-Fastest Growing Brand During the Pandemic

With 57 million people spending more than $100 monthly on Comcast products and services worldwide, CEO Brian Roberts says the company is uniquely positioned to deal with ongoing industry challenges presented by the pandemic. Speaking March 3 on the virtual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, Roberts said NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock was the second-fastest growing brand in 2020 behind Zoom, the online video conference platform.

“Think about how fast your world can change in a short order,” Roberts said. He said Peacock was a “spreadsheet plan that had to go into reality” during a pandemic. The platform ended 2020 with more than 33 million sign-ups.

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“During this year, one of my goals is to step back and comeback with, ‘okay, we had this start [with Peacock], what are we going to do about it?'” Roberts said.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

“Peacock has definitely benefited from being part of Sky [in the U.K.] and Comcast Cable,” he said, adding the service hopes to get back programming that currently streams on Hulu, the SVOD service Comcast holds a 33% minority stake in.

“Hulu has been a tremendous company,” Roberts said. “We have an exit opportunity in a couple of years, and that is creating real value for Comcast shareholders. The opportunity to get a lot of cash for Hulu is coming our way.”

Indeed, Wall Street analyst Richard Greenfield contends Comcast’s stake in Hulu is worth about $15 billion, while current programming oddities between Disney and Comcast find episodes of “Modern Family” streaming on both Peacock and Hulu.

“We control the flexibility and timing of when to bring that back on a non-exclusive and exclusive basis,” Roberts said.

He said Comcast continues to analyze streaming video in regards to third-party acquisitions, consumer trends for how the media giant positions itself competitively.

“Is it a winner-take-all [scenario], or is it, ‘you need to be relevant and have content your customers want and they find you?'” Roberts said.

He said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, has done a great job re-imagining the whole company, including movie distribution. Roberts contends the hybrid theatrical/PVOD business model is here to stay, especially for a company that has installed tens of millions of set-top boxes in consumer homes.

“I think we’re set up for success … and I’m excited for NBCUniversal,” he said.

When asked about the status of the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Roberts said the world could use the emotion and spectacle the Games offer.

“It’s not my decision, but I think it’s ‘not if, but how’ [the event is run] and I’m very hopeful in my conversations with [Games] leadership that there is an excitement [surrounding the event],” he said. “This is the perfect moment for the world to come together.”

Meanwhile, with broadband a prerequisite in the deployment of over-the-top video, Comcast added 2 million high-speed Internet subscribers in the past year — much of it driven by the proliferation of streaming services, including Comcast’s broadband-only Flex streaming video platform, which just crossed three million set-top boxes.

Comcast will roll out several new features and announcements for the streaming platform later this year, according to Roberts.

“Flex is the new television,” he said, adding that the service has produced a 15%-20% reduction in pay-TV subscriber churn. “It’s a new opportunity in R&D. I think we have the best aggregation tools in the country.”

Separately, Roberts said Universal is set to resume construction of Epic Universe theme park in Florida, while construction continues on Nintendo Park in Osaka, Japan — intellectual property Comcast plans to import to amusement parks in California and Florida.

“Our parks business was virtually shut down last year, so we have no where to go but up,” he said.

Peacock Streaming Professional Lacrosse

NBCUniversal’s subscription streaming service Peacock will be the new streaming home of the Premier Lacrosse League for the upcoming 2021 season, both parties announced March 3. The deal features live and commercial-free streaming coverage of every game this season, including 23 games that will stream exclusively on $4.99 monthly Peacock Premium and NBC Sports. Coverage on Peacock effectively replaces last season’s “Premier Lacrosse League Pass” on NBC Sports Gold

“Exclusive Premier Lacrosse League games add even more exciting live sports content to Peacock Premium,” Rick Cordella, EVP and chief revenue officer for Peacock, said in a statement.

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Indeed, Peacock, like the pending Paramount+ and ESPN+, offer streaming access to live sports.

“Through our first two seasons we’ve learned that our audience is not only growing in size but are easily adaptable to new media and technology,” said Paul Rabil, PLL co-founder and CMO.

PLL on Peacock will be complemented by television coverage that will air across both NBC and NBCSN. All games airing on TV will also stream on Peacock, live and commercial free. The 2021 PLL streaming and television schedule will be announced closer to the start of the season, which begins June 4. To learn more, click here.

Peacock currently features live sports content from Premier League, US Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Rugby, Supercross, Skiing, and Snowboarding. Highlights of Peacock’s previous live sports offerings include a Sunday NFL Wild Card playoff game, U.S. Open golf, U.S. Women’s Open golf, and upcoming events include Olympics and Paralympics coverage.

Peacock Originals available on demand include “Lost Speedways,” hosted by Dale Earnhardt Jr., and “In Deep with Ryan Lochte.” Peacock offers daily sports programming on the NBC Sports channel which streams Peacock Original “Brother From Another,” as well as “The Dan Patrick Show,” “PFT Liveand “The Rich Eisen Show.”