New Universal films to stream exclusively on Peacock

FILE PHOTO: A peacock is pictured outside NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center in the Manhattan borough of New York City
FILE PHOTO: A peacock is pictured outside NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 16, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

December 9, 2021

By Dawn Chmielewski

(Reuters) – Newly released films from Universal Studios will stream exclusively on Peacock as soon as 45 days after they debut in theaters and will be available for users to rent or purchase, the company said on Thursday.

The new release strategy begins with Universal’s 2022 films. It will bring movies to NBCUniversal’s nascent Peacock streaming service more quickly by compressing the traditional eight to nine month wait between a film’s theatrical debut and its availability on streaming services.

“It’s Peacock flexing its muscles on the content front,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives. “Showing they could become very formidable competitors to other platforms, given aggressive content moves such as this.”

NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast, joins other major media companies in tapping the lure of recent films to bolster their streaming services.

The Walt Disney Co. brought “Free Guy” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” to its Disney+ service just 45 days after their theatrical debut. AT&T’s Warner Bros. announced a similar 45-day window for its 2022 movie slate, after making this year’s movies available simultaneously in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s HBOMax streaming service on the same day, in a release strategy called “day-and-date.”

“You do have to wonder, after customers have gotten used to day- and-date from players like HBOMax, whether 45 days is going to be enough to move the needle,” said Craig Moffett, an analyst with MoffettNathanson. “Frankly, (Peacock is) struggling…They haven’t launched a single buzzy show that has put them on the map yet.”

Peacock reported it had 54 million sign-ups to its service as of July, with 20 million active accounts — with a few million more active accounts added in recent months. The service is roughly comparable, in size, to ViacomCBS’s Paramount+, though dramatically smaller than Netflix and Disney+, with 214 and 116 million subscribers respectively.

Universal’s 2022 film slate includes “The 355,” a globe-trotting spy thriller starring Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz and Lupita Nyong’o, “Ticket to Paradise,” starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts and “Marry Me,” with Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson.

(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski; Editing by Aurora Ellis)