NATPE: NBCU streamer will require “reinvention” of windowing

NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy have said that the business’s planned streaming service will require a “reinvention” of windowing that will affect its content strategy going forward.

The newly appointed co-chairmen, who have been in the roles for four months following the exit of Bob Greenblatt, told NATPE Miami delegates that NBC has been “very thoughtful” in how it enters the OTT space, and will mimic the Hulu model of serving as both an AVOD and SVOD proposition.

“We believe Netflix-chasing is not a strategy, so we feel excited and bullish about where this is headed,” said Cheeks, noting that there “isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy”.

NBCUniversal revealed last week that a new OTT platform is to be made available to subscribers of NBCUniversal parent group Comcast, as well as European pay-TV operator Sky, which was acquired last year.

The ad-supported, free service, which will reach around 52m subscribers in total, is to feature original content as well as third-party programming. Meanwhile, an ad-free version of the service, that will be priced competitively, is also in the works, while non-Comcast or Sky subscribers will be given the chance to sign up to the service separately.

“One possibility is you take all your originals and all your licenses – once the cycle is off – and put them all in one ecosystem,” said Cheeks, assuring that the NBCU service will be a “bit more nuanced and bespoke”.

“We will look at every original production and every licensed show that cycles off and decide where it belongs. It might be that it belongs exclusively within our ecosystem or it might be that it belongs exclusively on an outside ecosystem or there might be an in-between.”

On the back of controversial deals such as Netflix and WarnerMedia’s Friends renewal, there has been widespread speculation around what might happen to The Office, which is one of Netflix’s top shows but is set to expire in 2021, leaving NBCU to decide whether the content might live on its fledgling platform or Netflix.

Cheeks noted that seeing The Office in Netflix’s top show rankings is “gratifying”.

“What consistently blows me away is that The Office has been on Netflix for 10 years and it is still consistently in their top five. As for where it goes next, we have to ask ourselves that question. The Netflix license runs for a couple of years and we’ll have to see where that goes.”

Netflix’s VP of acquisitions Amy Reinhard told TBI earlier this week that the platform would “absolutely be in those negotiations” for the show.

Talent relationships

Asked how NBCU is looking to keep up with cash-flush SVODs and their major talent deals, Telegdy appeared bullish, noting that “people can talk to producers who have had long-term, repeat business with us as studio and rights exploitation business, and [they will say] it’s a partnership.

“It can feel like we’re a rights acquisitive company but that’s because we believe in maximising revenues for producers. I would partner with us if you want big checks over a long period of time.”

One recent talent partner is singer Kelly Clarkson, who fronts a new syndicated daytime talkshow for NBCU called The Kelly Clarkson Show. The star was in town in Miami on Tuesday (22 January) evening, performing at an intimate venue for various buyers.

“It’s a really hard job because of the number of episodes required,” explained Telegdy.

“We need someone who meets you with right kind of energy and work ethic. We’d seen her over the years as someone who could put a bright face on at 7am, and she showed up with incredible energy and attitude.”