The battle to gain a foothold in the streaming era has spurred Hollywood studios to go on the defensive. After licencing films and shows to Netflix and Amazon, the likes of Disney and WarnerMedia have yanked their biggest properties from the competition to boost their own platforms. Not to be left behind, Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is reportedly mulling a similar strategy in a bid to prop up its fledgling streamer, Peacock, reports Bloomberg. The media conglomerate currently gets paid hundreds of millions of dollars by HBO Max and Netflix for its Universal Pictures movies and popular animated film slate. But, with only so much room for new streaming services, senior execs are reportedly debating whether to walk away from lucrative rights deals when they expire at the end of the year.
The dilemma is part of the larger seismic changes Hollywood is reluctantly undergoing amid shuttered movie houses and fierce competition from deep-pocketed streamers, including newer entrants such as Apple. Disney — which previously pulled its movies from Netflix — has shuttled its theatrical movies, including Pixar’s Soul and upcoming Marvel blockbuster Black Widow, to Disney+. AT&T’s WarnerMedia has taken a similar approach by simultaneously releasing its films at theaters and on HBO Max.
Peacock, meanwhile, has put beloved sitcom The Office front and center and relied on a mix of sports and nostalgia to lure customers to its service. But, higher-ups at NBCU are now wondering whether the movies and shows leased out to others could be used to boost Peacock’s 33 million customer base. It’s not easy to unwind age-old business models, however, and a decision has yet to be made. Execs are also apparently considering a hybrid strategy that lets Peacock share rights with another service, in the vein of its deal with Disney’s Hulu for Modern Family.
Universal’s enviable catalog includes franchises such as Jurassic Park, Fast & the Furious, and popular animated films from Illumination Entertainment such as Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets. Though the older stuff may not match the raft of new shows and movies Netflix is pumping out, the hope is that it will keep people subscribing in between originals.
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