Peacock is getting serious about new film releases
The NBCUniversal streaming service, come January, will get pay-one exclusivity on a whole lot of movies
It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated processes that are now changing the movie industry almost real-time, so it comes as no surprise that all players are modifying their strategies at a similar pace. After Disney releasing many new films day-and-date in cinemas and on Disney Plus or Warner releasing all of its 2021 movies in theatres and HBO Max simultaneously, it's NBCUniversal's turn: its streaming service, Peacock, will be getting every Universal, DreamWorks, Illumination and Focus films first, starting next year.
This collaboration model is somewhat more open-ended than the one Disney, Warner, Paramount and others are following with their respective films and services. Movies from all four of the aforementioned studios will be heading to Peacock "for the first four months, as well as the last four months of the traditional 18-month pay-one window". What this means is that there will also be a ten-month period where films from those four studios will be licensed to other, competing streaming services too. This is something that Disney, Warner and others either do not do or do beyond the critical first 18-month "pay-one" window.
NBCUniversal also seems reluctant to aggressively shorten theatrical release windows as other movie studios choose to do. According to the company, movies from Universal, DreamWorks, Illumination and Focus will head to Peacock as exclusives "no later than four months after they premiere in cinemas". Four months is a far cry from the 60 or 90 days other studios push for but, then again, "no later than" can mean anything in practice (chances are that this window will vary in duration on a per-case basis). Those four months also mark a strategic shift for Universal, as the studio had already reached an agreement with top theatre chain AMC for a premium VOD release window of just 17 days (!) for new films last summer. That agreement is probably meaningless now.
Films that will be handled in the way this new agreement describes in 2022 include Jurassic World: Dominion, The Bad Guys, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Minions: The Rise of Gru. As part of the new agreement, Universal Pictures will also be producing new movies that will not be released in theatres at all and will be debuting exclusively on Peacock instead (no other information regarding those was shared).
Peacock is available on almost all popular platforms including Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast, LG webOS, Samsung Tizen, Roku and Vizio SmartCast, as well as on PlayStation and Xbox. It's only operating in the US for now, though, and NBCUniversal has not shared a timetable of availability in Europe, South America or other markets.
Reports regarding Peacock's userbase are somewhat conflicting: some put it at more than 50 million "sign-ups", while others claim that the actual figure of "active subscribers" is less than 15 million. Peacock offers a free ad-supported tier - and that might explain a few things... - but, most importantly, several reports claim that only 6% of Peacock's userbase is paying the full $9.99 monthly fee (there's a partially ad-supported $4.99 option that's not very popular apparently). NBCUniversal will have to give consumers more reasons to use its service and actually pay for it, which is what this new agreement should help with. Whether that help will prove to be enough in an already overcrowded streaming services market remains to be seen.
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