Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, launches nationwide July 15 with originals including an adaptation of Brave New World, the original movie Psych 2 and a number of British titles.
Bill McGoldrick, President of Original Content at NBCU Entertainment Networks and Direct-to-Consumer, would have hoped that he and his team would have had a few more originals at launch, including reboots of Saved By the Bell and Punky Brewster, but these were curtailed by COVID-19.
In an interview with Deadline, McGoldrick and President of Content Acquisition and Strategy Frances Manfredi lay out the nascent platform’s content strategy, its comedy push, what shows tested well during its three-month cable trial and which A-list creatives it is targeting to work with.
The service has been available to Comcast Xfinity Flex customers since the beginning of May and McGoldrick and Manfredi revealed that some of its strongest performers include the Kevin Costner cowboy drama Yellowstone, the Psych movie sequel, classic comedies such as King of Queens and Two and a Half Men, kids series Curious George and films including Shrek and Jurassic Park. “That’s one of the great takeaways from beta,” Manfredi said.
The service also launches with classic comedies such as 30 Rock, Cheers, King of Queens, Parks and Recreation and Two and a Half Men. McGoldrick tells Deadline that Peacock, which has one of the strongest comedy libraries out of all of the streamers, is leaning into the genre in terms of originals.
In addition to Punky Brewster and Saved By the Bell, which the company is confident of having by the end of the year, it has ordered ’90s girl band comedy Girls5Eva from Tina Fey and Meredith Scardino; Rutherford Falls, a small-town comedy from Mike Schur and Sierra Ornelas; and a pilot order of Straight Talk, a Jada Pinkett Smith-fronted couples comedy from Kara Brown and Rashida Jones.
McGoldrick said Peacock wants to capitalize on the library. “When you have people like Tina Fey and Mike Schur in your studio system, it’s a great advantage. They took such an interest in Peacock, it was very exciting for us,” he added.
Said Manfredi, “Comedy was very intentional, not only in terms of understanding what our internal studios could offer but also looking to aggregate from third-party studios that comedy genre and knowing that we have Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office coming in January 2021. We really liked developing that genre and think we have a lot of world-class comedies, and we’re hopeful that that will only get better.”
On the drama side, in addition to Alden Ehrenreich-fronted Brave New World, from Homecoming’s David Wiener, it has ordered a reboot of Battlestar Galactica, the miniseries Angelyne, podcast adaptation Dr. Death and a pilot of teen mystery drama One Of Us Is Lying.
McGoldrick said that there’s no official decision on pilot orders, nor any update on the streamer’s development slate, which includes a reboot of Queer As Folk and a project based on SNL sketch MacGruber.
“There’s a lot of stuff on the runway because we’re not back to full production, even on the things that were being shot before COVID,” he said. “Our strategy is not to do a ton of originals at launch; what we’ll probably do is scale up the original spend as we scale up the user base. There’s no set number we have to hit, we’ll grow as the service grows.”
It will continue to order pilots as well as go straight-to-series. “It’s going to be a mix depending on the show. I like doing pilots when possible but it’s also not possible with some shows because you have to build so much of the world that’s so big. Hopefully we’ll be able to do both,” he added.
The service is also bringing back Glenn Howerton-fronted comedy AP Bio for a third season after it was canceled by NBC. McGoldrick said the show had performed well on digital and he liked the show, which is why he’s brought it back, but cautioned against picking up too many canceled linear titles.
“We get those calls all the time,” he admitted. However, he pointed out that NBCU’s new structure — the creation of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming under Mark Lazarus, unveiled in May — means that collaboration among Peacock, NBC and its cable networks is now easier to manage. “That’s a great differentiator for us, being part of the NBC family,” added Manfredi.
In terms of library content, the service has taken a raft of content from its own studio as well as a number of third-party titles, including Paramount Network’s Yellowstone. Manfredi said they would wait until they start seeing data as to what other shows it picks up. “Until we know more, we want to get more scientific in terms of further investment,” she added.
This will be a mix of exclusive titles, like Yellowstone, and non-exclusive shows. “We see it in phases. We definitely believe that for certain tentpole shows, exclusivity is key, but I also think non-exclusive content in many ways serves us well in terms of usage,” she said.
McGoldrick and his team are keen to work with a number of the auteurs in its NBCU stable including Law & Order creator Dick Wolf and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The latter’s first project since moving to NBCU from Twentieth Century Fox Television was The At-Home Variety Show, and McGoldrick said he was very “proud” that it was the first thing that he did at the company.
“We are talking to [MacFarlane] about a number of projects. His appetite for the kinds of things that he wants to do is very vast, so it’s very exciting to have him in the family across all genres,” he added.
Peacock will also be home to a number of non-scripted shows including The Amber Ruffin Show, a talk/variety show from the Late Night with Seth Meyers writer; a new take on the Real Housewives franchise; and a Jimmy Fallon-produced show for kids.
McGoldrick said he’s referred to the Real Housewives series as a “mash-up of different cast members.” “Our plans stalled during COVID — we’re in conversations about how we can get that going again and what way we’ll do it. Obviously all of the Housewives shows were affected by COVID too so that’s a bit of a tricky puzzle to put it back together,” he said.
Similarly, the Fallon project, which has been called The Kids Tonight Show, has been hit by the production shutdown. “This is one that got stopped because there’s kids involved, you have to bring families in, so that one got stalled because of COVID and we have not got back into any prep or production yet,” McGoldrick said. He added that they haven’t decided whether it will be hosted by an adult or kids, but it will feature talented children.
Some of the brand-new titles at launch also include a slew of British scripted shows. It has David Schwimmer’s Sky spy comedy Intelligence and BBC1 drama The Capture, which is produced by NBCU’s international production division, and will air series including Code 404 and Hitmen, which also come from Sky, as well as NBCU-distributed shows including Channel 4’s Lady Parts and Australian drama Five Bedrooms.
“We are definitely looking at our internal Sky partner, that’s an obvious place to look, but we’re not limited and are very actively talking to international partners all over,” said Manfredi.
She also revealed that the company was in talks with Sky on co-productions, although she refused to disclose what projects they were discussing.
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