Mark Lazarus was installed as Chairman of NBCUniversal Television & Streaming last spring as part of a major reorganization of the Comcast-owned company.
Today, in a keynote interview as part of Natpe, he talked up what that reshuffle meant for the company’s programming strategy and fledgling streaming service Peacock and also opined on the Olympics that are set to take place in Japan this summer.
Lazarus, speaking to Today co-host Hoda Kotb, said bringing all of its networks, including NBC and cable nets such as Bravo and USA Network together under the same umbrella as Peacock, was an “aggressive” move but believed that it has helped its standing in the creative sector.
“That is a big benefit for us the creative community. You no longer have to look through individual networks,” he said. “Susan Rovner is now the leader of that creative group. Her job and goal is to be a one-stop shop and work with creators, showrunner and visionaries to say ‘We love that idea, how about we expose it on NBC broadcast network and expose it down the line on Peacock.”
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He highlighted the company’s upcoming scripted series based on the story of Joe Exotic, starring and exec produced by Kate McKinnon. That show will air on the NBC broadcast network as well as on USA Network and Peacock in different windows.
He also pointed to the fact that reality competition series Cannonball was able to air on USA Network as well as NBC and its rights to the Dick Wolf library of shows across platforms.
Elsewhere, he alluded to revealing more subscriber figures for Peacock. In December, the company said that it had 26M subscribers, a number he said “exceeded” internal expectations. “Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear about moving fast towards growth there,” he said.
He believes that the Olympics will further help the streamer. “We’re getting towards cruising altitude and the Olympics will accelerate that,” he said.
The games will air on NBC but Lazarus said that Peacock will be used in a complementary way with some exclusive access. He admitted that pushing the event was disappointing but he feels that it has a chance to bring people together.
“To me, the Olympics, at this moment in time in our history has a chance to be a real gathering spot to the world in a time when we really need a gathering spot for the world to come together for sport and peace and life. It’s something to look forward to,” he said.
Some observers query whether the Olympics will, in fact, even go ahead this summer, particularly as many countries, including the U.S. and UK, continue to suffer with outbreaks of the virus.
Lazarus said that he believed that the whole entertainment industry had done a “tremendous” job of getting back to work in light of Covid-19. The industry showed real leadership and we should all be proud of that. It’s not without its hiccups but I think the infection rates for all of us in our industry is below what we see in many communities. We need to remain vigilant and continue to evolve protocols as things change, I think we should all feel pretty good about what we’ve achieved over these last nine months,” he said. “Hopefully we’re getting to a place where more and more normalcy will return.”
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