NBCUniversal's Streaming Strategy, Name, Programming Lineup Revealed

Direct-to-consumer chairman Bonnie Hammer talks with The Hollywood Reporter about Peacock, the battle over library content and how the service impacts the cable brands.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; NBCUniversal
Bonnie Hammer

NBCUniversal has unveiled the name, initial programming lineup and strategy behind its forthcoming streaming service. 

The ad-supported, direct-to-consumer platform will be called Peacock and launch in April 2020 with a lineup of more than 15,000 hours of content, including exclusive library titles like Parks and Recreation and originals including reboots of Battlestar Galactica, Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster. Peacock will take center stage during NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics in 2020 when the entire NBCUniversal fold will get behind the platform with a massive marketing push promoting the service, with originals set to launch after the Games.

"The name 'Peacock' pays homage to the quality content that audiences have come to expect from NBCUniversal — whether it's culture-defining dramas from innovative creators like Sam Esmail, laugh-out-loud comedies from legends like Lorne Michaels and Mike Schur, blockbusters from Universal Pictures, or buzzy unscripted programming from the people who do it best at Bravo and E!,” Bonnie Hammer, chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, said Tuesday in a statement. "Peacock will be the go-to place for both the timely and timeless — from can’t-miss Olympic moments and the 2020 election, to classic fan favorites like The Office."

Peacock will be the exclusive streaming home for both The Office and Parks, with other library titles set to debut at launch on the service eventually becoming exclusive to the platform. Those titles — nearly all of which are from studio counterparts Universal TV and UCP — include 30 Rock, Bates Motel, Battlestar Galactica, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Cheers, Chrisley Knows Best, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Friday Night Lights, House, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, King of Queens, Married … With Children, Monk, Parenthood, Psych, Royal Pains, Saturday Night Live, Superstore, The Real Housewives, Top Chef and Will & Grace.

Feature film library titles from within the company fold — including from Universal, DreamWorks Animation and Focus Features — will also be available at launch, though on a non-exclusive basis. Peacock will also look to Universal's feature division to create TV series from its established film franchises. Library titles available at launch include American Pie, Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, A Beautiful Mind, Back to the Future, Brokeback Mountain, Casino, Dallas Buyers Club, Do the Right Thing, Erin Brockovich, E.T., Field of Dreams, Jaws, Mama Mia, Shrek and The Breakfast Club. The Bourne, Despicable Me and Fast & Furious franchises will also be available.

More than 3,000 hours of content from NBCU's Telemundo will also be available on Peacock, including the original dramedy Armas de Mujer and a handful of library titles.

Peacock's initial original drama slate will consist of a new take on Battlestar Galactica from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail; Dr. Death, starring Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan and Christian Slater; Brave New World, formerly developed for USA and starring Demi Moore; the limited series Angelyne, from Esmail and starring Emmy Rossum and based on a Hollywood Reporter feature; and the thriller One of Us Is Lying. (The latter will be a pilot.)

On the comedy front, the original roster includes an updated take on Saved by the Bell from Tracey Wigfield (Great News); Rutherford Falls, co-created by Mike Schur (The Good Place), Ed Helms and Sierra Teller Ornelas and starring Helms; the pilot Straight Talk, from Rashida Jones and starring Jada Pinkett Smith; a Punky Brewster sequel (also a pilot) starring Soleil Moon Frye; and the second movie spinoff of Psych. Those join the previously announced NBC import A.P. Bio on the service.

On the unscripted front, the platform includes the SNL docuseries Who Wrote That, from creator Lorne Michaels; an original talk show from Jimmy Fallon; a weekly late-night show starring Amber Ruffin from Seth Meyers; and a spinoff of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise.

Details on pricing and a formal launch date will be announced later. The platform will also feature news and sports content that also will be revealed in the weeks and months to come. 

Peacock is the latest arrival in the increasingly crowded streaming space as established media brands like Comcast, Disney and WarnerMedia look to compete in the digital era with players including Amazon and upstart Apple. The strategy to lean into the larger company's brand and IP is the backbone of Disney+ and WarnerMedia's HBO Max. Disney+, for example, will be the streaming home of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm library titles as well as new series in those universes. 

Below, Hammer talks with The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from Peacock.

Your slate leans hard into the Comcast brand with reboots of library titles and new originals from Universal TV and UCP's top producers. What's the pitch to the investment community? 

First and foremost, we're excited about it because we, like nobody else, have access to an incredible place with NBCU at large being behind us, with both the film studio, DreamWorks Animation, broadcast, cable channels, news, sports, etc. We are incredibly lucky because we're starting with a very deep vault of content that we can play off of. Then you add originals to that and our ability to be both timely and timeless — we can be current and relevant as well as go back to our wonderful coffers of titles. We also will be able to market right off of the Olympics, which is the most important event in 2020. We can use Symphony to help push and present Peacock — by the way, we like our name — and use that as a marketing ground for our originals that will follow. We're going to take great advantage of Symphony, which is being able to promote and market throughout company to a singular purpose at a singular time as well as go broad, where we can help promote one another. So between Symphony, the Olympics, deep libraries and being able to be topical, we're excited because it speaks to our legacy.

How is original programming on Peacock different than USA, Syfy and NBC? Much of your inaugural originals were either developed for those outlets or could just have easily been on those platform.

Because we're connected to NBC at large, we have the ability to pull from each of those entities and basically develop and produce something that is very specific tonally to what we want that's current and relevant, that lives within our family and nods back to the legacy and is fresh for what we want to do. In our library, we're lucky to have Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster. To reboot a specific show, why not have it be something that can be relevant and timely with a classic people love. Working with Mike Schur connected to The Office and Parks and Recreation. Rutherford Falls should work well on Peacock because it's going to have the same sensibility of content we can put around it. We can market from one to the next, but also have the tone and sensibility that is so close to what we have in our library and something that's new and fresh and relevant. And the same thing with drama.

So why put those shows on Peacock and not NBC? The Good Place is ending, so why not put Schur's new show on the linear network? Unless you're a Comcast subscriber, you're going to have to pay to see that now.

We want to build a service that is competitive, relevant and we're developing very specific titles for us specifically. Obviously there are conversations that go across the company, in terms of what we want vs. others, but right now, my target is to launch in a way that is relevant and strong. Where we go topical is working with Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers. We're going to pick content and develop shows that we believe are going to work in conjunction with the other stuff that's directly on Peacock. For NBCU, why would we have developed something for USA Network that could have gone on NBC? It's our choice of where we want to invest and how we want to target the audience we want to get on Peacock.

What is the audience you're targeting for Peacock? Is there a demo you have in mind?

We're going to be very, very broad. We believe we'll have something for everyone. There are two ways we look at it: There is content we'll have for acquisition — targeting and acquiring people who want to view noisy originals — and then you have content that we are putting on the service that's for usage — meaning binge-worthy content. We will have probably the best binge-worthy content out there with our library of great series, and what we want to do is make sure we can exploit the libraries with new, fresh content that relates. Not unlike doing a reboot of Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster and BSG — it's stuff we already have that's binge-worthy that we'll add new and fresh and relevant [material to].

How much will Peacock be beholden to Comcast vs. buying and working with outside studios?

We're connected to all of our inside studios — UCP, UTV, DreamWorks, the film group — we're going to be producing a lot internally but we're not going to be turning away from third parties, either. We will go where our strength lies, but we're a business.

Will Peacock originals have a second window on linear outlets and vice versa? Brave New World was developed for USA Network, for example. Is that going to be on Peacock first and then maybe on the linear network?

It's going to be case by case. There's no one size fits all. We'll be sharing at times and we'll be completely owning in others.

Are you looking at a weekly rollout for originals or the binge model?

We haven't made any final decisions. We're looking at every way in terms of what makes sense for us.

Library titles are in increasing demand — with The Office moving to Peacock for $500 million for domestic rights alone. You're getting Parks and Recreation back from Netflix. How competitive will you be for exclusivity with these libraries?

Right now, we have The Office and Parks exclusively. As we ramp up, more titles will become available and you can expect more exclusive titles and content on this service. A lot has to do with the marketplace right now and what's available and what's not. We're going to invest smartly and strategically.

With Parks and Recreation, did you have to go through an "arm's length" negotiating period and if so, will that be the model for everything?

We never talk about deal points, but I can tell you we were competitive and very fair.

You're paying millions to get these shows back rather than those libraries generating revenue from sales to third-parties like Netflix. Is the streamer expected to fill that financial void?

We're trying to be strategic and invest where we believe it makes sense for Peacock. We are looking at where we want it to go, what the originals will be, how the originals tie back to legacy and library. Like any startup, we're going to invest strategically and be smart about it and we're going to be careful. The way we're thinking about it and how we're trying to be strategic is we're going to be investing in products like The Office that we believe, in one way or another, will pay back in spades. How that's calculated, we'll see down the road. But you can't create a service without having content and you can't have content unless you pay for it. I think we're doing it the right way and not haphazardly going after stuff — we're doing it with purpose.

With all the features joining the Peacock library, does that mean HBO's feature film deal with Universal Pictures is ending?

No. We'll be working with our sisters and brothers across the company. We're not trying to stop their business; we're trying to be strategic about what comes to Peacock and when they're doing their films and making those outside deals. It's going to be on a case by case basis. The film titles we're announcing today for Peacock are not exclusive at the moment.

Will Peacock be a global service?

We're starting out stateside and eventually we do intend to go global. But that's down the road a bit.

What's the pricing strategy? It's free to Comcast subscribers, with one price point for ad-free and another for non-Comcast subscribers. Is that still the case?

There will be conversations about pricing down the road. But the strategy is still the same.

How will news and sports factor into Peacock?

We're viewing ourselves as being timely and timeless, so both news and sports — as well as pop culture from E! — will be a big part of the streamer. That's one of the reasons that helps us differentiate. We're going to be working with our buds in the sports department and Andy Lack and his news department to find out ways where we can be and feel very topical. With the Olympics being the biggest event in 2020, we're going to be working with the sports team to use the Olympics as one of our launchpads, too, because the marketing probably won't kick in in a big way until we hit the Olympics. We will definitely have enough sports content on Peacock that will excite and interest sports fans.

Peacock is launching after Disney+ and Apple and around the same time as HBO Max. How will you play catch-up?

The concept is we're going to rollout in April, but our big push starts with the Olympics. Nobody has it but NBCU and Peacock. That will be our takeoff point, that's where our marketing is going to fly and that's when we'll start promoting with Symphony. We rollout with 15,000 hours of content in April and scale from there. There will be Olympics content on Peacock.