NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell Says Peacock Hit 26M Signups; Defends Theatrical Window Busting For “Stuck In The Mud” Film Business

Jeff Shell, chief executive of NBCUniversal, said the film business had “stayed stuck in the mud” and was “leaving a lot of money on the table” even as the rest of the entertainment industry, T notably, has evolved rapidly.

Speaking at a UBS conference on the topic that’s currently roiling Hollywood, he described “a whole segment of people who love movies” but don’t go as often as they could for a host of reasons, even pre-pandemic. “And we do not serve those customers.”

“I think theatrical is a critical part of the movie business. They are events, and you can get in your car and go watch them on a big screen with great sound the way directors and filmmakers had meant. But there is also going to be a growing segment of the population that want to watch movies in a non-premium, way which is at home. I think that theatrical will survive and the more windows collapse, the more money that will be made in the movie business,” Shell said.

Universal itself may have launched the pandemic-fueled, heated and ongoing debate on windows back in April when it released Trolls World Tour on PVOD, raising the ire of exhibitors, followed by a deals with AMC Entertainment and Cinemark for shorter theatrical windows. That flurry seems almost quaint now after AT&T’s Warner Bros. announced last week that its entire 2021 film slate will debut on streaming service HBO Max day-and-date with cinemas domestically.

Shell said there’s a difference. Universal believes in a “transactional event,” like PVOD, because it makes the movie event feel “a little more premium than just turning on your TV and watching something somewhere.”

“AT&T is taking a different strategy… but anything that collapses windows is good and theaters will be fine over the long term, he said.

Shell also noted that NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock passed 26 million signups as of yesterday even without star content like The Office, which hits in January, and the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July. That’s up 4 million from the company’s latest update in October.

In a broad ranging Q&A, he also discussed NBCUni’s corporate restructuring and prospects for theme parks, sports and advertising.

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