A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Understanding NBC's Peacock. ALSO: Watch Little America. AND: RIP Apu's voice. AND AND: RIP: Fox.
Always Be Watching is written by Dan Barrett on a stormy Saturday morning.
THE RISE OF THE PEACOCK
To explain the thinking around Peacock, the new US-only streaming service from NBC, you have to know something about Hulu. That streaming service has two tiers - customers can pay US$5.99 per month with ads or US$11.99 per month for an ad-free experience. More of its subscribers choose the ad-supported plan, which means Hulu doesn’t lose any revenue per user as they’re also making approximately $6 per user each month in ad revenue.
You also need to know that NBC is owned by cable company Comcast who still make most of their money from cable TV subscriptions. While that market is in decline and will continue to trend downwards, it is still going to be hugely profitable for years to come. Comcast isn’t launching Peacock because of its profit potential. It is safeguarding the company years from now. They want to avoid the scenario presented in The Inventors Dillemma:
The reason [for why great companies failed] is that good management itself was the root cause. Managers played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. The very decision-making and resource allocation processes that are key to the success of established companies are the very processes that reject disruptive technologies: listening to customers; tracking competitors actions carefully; and investing resources to design and build higher-performance, higher-quality products that will yield greater profit. These are the reasons why great firms stumbled or failed when confronted with disruptive technology change.
Comcast needed to launch a product to market that met the consumer demand of cord-cutters (ie lots of good shows at a cheap price point with a user experience that is a pleasure to use), but it also couldn’t be so good that customers would feel that they would be better served by cancelling expensive cable packages in favor of a $10 per month product.
A deep library of content. But not too deep.
Sports and news. But not all the best sports or most-watched news.
Lots of Law & Order. But not every episode of Law & Order.
Now enter: Peacock.
The service will launch on April 15 in the US for existing cable customers. For everyone else, they will be waiting until July 15. That’s right in time for the Olympics… which you’ll be able to stream via Peacock. It’s a great way to on-board a whole lot of customers onto the platform.
Comcast’s cable business and its broadcast NBC business is built off advertising. And so too will Peacock. There’s a free version that is completely ad-supported. There will be a second version, a ‘premium’ free version priced at US$4.99 which will have additional programming. And then there will be its top-tier ad-free version, which will be the same as its premium version, but ad-free.
They say there’ll be 15,000 hours of content, but what does that really mean? To put it in terms that will actually mean something, there will be 600 movies and 400 series on the platform.
There’s actually a lot of interesting aspects to the platform. First of all, there is the library of content.
There’s new shows that include: Girls5Eva, The Capture, Lady Parts, Intelligence, Code 404, Hitmen, Rutherford Falls, Saved by the Bell, A.P. Bio, Punky Brewster, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (a movie), Dr. Death, Battlestar Galactica, Brave New World, Angelyne, and Armas de Mujer.
When you look at that collection, it all feels very much in line with the NBC brand - reliable, well-produced, and smart (but not too smart) shows that will all have either well-known stars in them or will be spin-offs/continuations of well-known existing shows. It’s big tent entertainment.
And yes, you read correctly - there is new Saved By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica on their way.
And then there’s the library of older shows. To me, this is where the real strength is. NBC have so many older catalogue titles of shows that haven’t been seen in some time and I’d expect quite a few of those to make their way onto the service. The titles they have announced are all the big ones (slightly boring only because they’ve never really not been available to watch in recent years) : 30 Rock, Bates Motel, Battlestar Galactica, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Cheers, Chrisley Knows Best, Covert Affairs, Downton Abbey, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Friday Night Lights, House, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, King of Queens, Married…With Children, Monk, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, Psych, Royal Pains, Saturday Night Live, Superstore, and Will & Grace.
In an interesting, unexpected twist, the NBC late night shows will also be available on Peacock several hours before they air on broadcast TV. Instead of waiting until 11:35pm to watch The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, viewers can log onto Peacock to watch from 8pm. Viewers of Late Nightwith Seth Meyers will be able to stream it from 9pm. This to me says that while Comcast doesn’t want to see its cable TV business cannibalized by Peacock, it doesn’t mind competing against itself with NBC broadcast content.
As a platform, here’s where I think Peacock is doing something pretty interesting. The streaming service is essentially bringing together every element of how we watch TV now into one place. So, this not only means that there are scripted/reality shows to stream, but the platform also offers live content. That means sports and news, which NBC is well known for already. (Interestingly, its 24 hour news streaming service won’t be just a stream of MSNBC, but rather it’ll be a new service called NBC News Now, which will pool together stories from its news gathering across the network, along with marquee news shows like the evening news with Lester Holt and the daily Meet The Press with Chuck Todd).
But, it’ll also have a bunch of live linear streaming channels. Similar to what CBS has with its streaming service Pluto TV. With a cable TV-like grid, viewers just move up and down with their remote and watch channels. Like with Pluto TV, this is a good alternative for viewers who want something specific to watch (like a movie, or an episode of Baywatch) without making an active viewing choice. In other words - its the sort of TV you want on in the background and you don’t want to pay a lot of attention to it.
Expect, as with Pluto TV, for NBC to create a lot of stunt pop-up channels. A 24-hour channel showing classic episodes of Punky Brewster leading into the launch of the series revival, for example. Or maybe a dedicated channel screening Saturday morning cartoons from the 80s like The Smurfs. Just because it is a good idea.
It’ll also do things like have a dedicated channel for classic SNL episodes, a channel for art house movies, etc.
Peacock is pretty promising for what it is (a single broadcaster rebuilding itself as a worthwhile streamer). If you want to find out more about it:
Inspired by the true stories, Little America will go beyond the headlines to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and surprising stories of immigrants in America, when they're more relevant now than ever.
Disney is killing off the Fox brand. All of the Fox companies that Disney purchased are being rebranded to remove Fox from the name. 20th Century Fox will now be known as 20th Century Studios. Fox Searchlight will now be known as Searchlight Pictures. Source: Deadline
Hank Azaria will no longer be the voice of Apu on The Simpsons. Source: TV Line
Steve Martin and Martin Short will star in a new Hulu series about three strangers who share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. Source: Variety
Facebook has cancelled its Facebook Watch series Sorry For Your Loss and Limetown. Sorry For Your Loss will be shopped around. Meanwhile Facebook Watch will scale back its scripted ambitions. Source: Deadline
There’s a new trailer for the High Fidelity TV series:
ALWAYS BE LISTENING
This week on the Always Be Watching podcast Dan and Chris have a chat about:
Rick & Morty
You can listen to the podcast on your favourite podcast apps, or listen to it via the web HERE.
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