NBC Execs Talk 'The Office' Netflix Fate, "Nuanced" New Streamer

Courtesy of Photofest
'The Office'

"The licensing deal is up in a couple years, it will be interesting to see where that goes."

Four months after rising to share the top post at NBC Entertainment, co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy took one of their first public speaking engagements to talk more about their parent company's forthcoming streamer than their own broadcast network.

"Live ratings do still matter, particularly for affiliate partners," Telegdy was careful to say, before the duo leaned into the digital future during their Wednesday panel at NATPE's annual conference in Miami Beach.

"The company has been very thoughtful about how we go into the market," said Cheeks. "Netflix chasing is not a strategy. All of these major media companies approaching this, it's not a one-size fits all strategy."

If there was a model that seemed more familiar to boss Steve Burke's planned 2020 OTT service, it's Hulu. Both Telegdy and Cheeks were quick to note that the NBCUniversal streamer will have both ad-free and ad-supported versions. "We believe through less ad cutter, with more targeted pods, we've seen more engagement," added Telegdy.

When broached with the topic of which NBC-owned legacy series might end up on the streamer, neither was ready to commit to anything.

"The Office has been on Netflix for 10 years and it's still in their top five," said Cheeks. "The licensing deal is up in a couple years, it will be interesting to see where that goes."

Cheeks noted that NBC properties currently housed on other platforms will be judged for inclusion on the new service on a case-by-case basis — which may very well have something to do with pricing. (See Warner Bros. and Netflix's recent extension of Friends, despite Warner's upcoming platform of its own.)

There's no arguing that streaming is skewing younger for current NBC shows. Cheeks mentioned that the average Brooklyn Nine-Nine viewer on the network is 46. On digital, it's 27. And while the linear crowd for long-running Law & Order: SVU is 57, its Hulu audience is 30.

Cheeks and Telegdy weren't just in town for a quick Q&A with Soledad O'Brien, though. They're also selling Kelly Clarkson's upcoming syndicated talk show, a project they rolled out the previous night featuring the Voice coach and original American Idol winner performing for a small crowd — and proving her knack for banter.

"Everyone acknowledges this is a tough business to get success," said Telegdy. "You need someone who meets you with the right kind of energy and work ethic. That seems to be what's necessary to get through the grind, and that she can do it for — hopefully, a couple of decades. Incumbency is something we really understand as an industry."