Peacock's Scripted Push: How NBC's Streamer Plans to Cut Through the Clutter

Bill McGoldrick - Publicity - H 2019
Lisa Berg/NBC

Bill McGoldrick wants to lean into what has been working for NBCUniversal's broadcast and cable brands for its forthcoming streaming service.

The executive, who recently added oversight of Peacock, the ad-supported direct-to-consumer platform launching in April, wants "loud" and "buzzy" originals that work well with the streamer's roster of library titles. The perfect example of McGoldrick's strategy is Battlestar Galactica, with the beloved Ron Moore Syfy drama part of Peacock's library offerings and a new reboot in the works from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. The same is true on the comedy side, as Peacock will be the exclusive (domestic) streaming home of Mike Schur's Parks and Recreation with an new comedy from the prolific producer: Ed Helms vehicle Rutherford Falls, seen as a companion to the Amy Poehler favorite.

The hope, McGoldrick tells The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive interview, is to avoid subscriber churn while differentiating Peacock from the rest of NBCUniversal's cable brands. As for USA Network and Syfy, among others, McGoldrick has been knee deep in the months-long process of reviewing the cable portfolio's roster of scripted originals. That has included a number of scripted series moving from one home to another (Dirty John went from Bravo to USA, for example). In the process, the well-regarded executive is looking for broad-skewing originals for Peacock and the best opportunities for content across the NBCU portfolio to be seen.

Below, McGoldrick speaks with THR about his pitch to the creative community for Peacock and his process of matching right content with the proper platform.

What's your pitch to the creative community for Peacock?

That you'll have a lot of fun here. We are looking for loud, buzzy originals that can make a name for ourselves. We're drawing on every platform and the things we know how to do well and the ways we know how to market content. And we feel good about the opportunity to bring these to consumers in a new way. 

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 have just as easily been on that platform.

We do want to be loud, first and foremost. We want a name or a concept that gets our audience base excited. That will also be informed by our vast library with 15,000 hours of programming. So there may be some decisions that are based on library acquisitions that we'll build off of. It's not any one thing that we're looking at; there's not any one sentence but it's a combination of a lot of factors.

How will the Amber Ruffin late-night show work? Will it launch on the streamer literally late at night?

We just started with Amber and haven't made any decisions around slots and when we're actually going to drop it on the streamer.

Some of the scripted shows moving to Peacock were developed for other outlets within the Comcast fold. How will the development pipeline change with the arrival of Peacock? Develop it first then determine which platform?

It's case-by-case decision. We want to do what's best for creators and content and where we think we can launch it best. Brave New World, in particular, is a title we think is timely to the world we're living in but also timeless in appeal and a book people read in high school and college. It felt like a natural fit for the streaming service. But that was very specific to the attributes of that project. I imagine we'll be looking at things that way going forward.

Syfy has canceled a number of series, as has USA — which also picked up Dirty John from Bravo. How will the cable networks be impacted by the debut of Peacock? Will you be scaling back on originals for linear cable networks?

No. It's the same answer, only from a different side of the company. Each platform is going to make content decisions based on what's best for that platform at that time and where we think we can get the most eyeballs on that content. It's case-by-case and informed by the networks' schedule. It's not one size fits all.

In terms of volume, how many originals do you want on an annual basis?

We haven't looked at it that way. We're looking at originals that we feel like we can make the most noise with that will get people to sign up for our service. That's the major factor. Once they do, we'll see in which categories we need more or less of.

Will you buy originals from outside studios?

Absolutely. There are conversations going on with just about every studio out there — and fruitful conversations at this point.

You're launching with late night and unscripted series. What other genres are you looking to get into?

The genres we're focused on at the beginning tend to be genres we know a lot about that one platform or another in the company knows how to do very well. That's just where we started. I don't think we've closed out any one particular genre or category arbitrarily. It's going to be defined by how we feel about the content and what we think we can do to bring the content to market.

Comcast, like Disney, is launching streamers based on the strength of IP. Disney+ is leaning hard into IP for new series like Marvel and Star Wars. Beyond Saved by the Bell, Battlestar and Punky, how much more of that will you be doing? There are rumors about a Fast and Furious show, for example. Is that something you're working on?

There's no other specific show I can mention right now. We'd be crazy not to look at the vast treasure trove of IP that we have here. We're looking at those titles and what we think we can do with them and what's feasible and trying to mine the best ones — and not just do them to do them, but to do them because we think they're timely and they should be remade because of the creative take or it's a producer or writer we're passionate about being in business with.

How are you guarding against churn, with subs coming in for shows like Saved by the Bell and then leaving once the show is over?

To have a continual flow of great original content so that those viewers find something else, either originals or library content, to watch and keep them there.

How much time will NBCU give this to work?

They haven't said anything about that. The whole company is behind it. There's no deadline to this thing. Based on the enthusiasm and collaboration with every piece of the company; we're not thinking that way.

How does a budget for a Peacock original compare vs. for an NBCU cable network?

It's case-by-case, show-by-show decisions. When my team and I can make a case for an investment in a new show, I never felt like there was a cap. If we can make a compelling business reason to invest in a show we think [will] further the aim of the platform, I feel like the resources are there. 

Is there a subscriber goal you're shooting for by a specific time?

If there is, they haven't shared it with me.