NBCU Makes Peacock the Focus as Streaming Service Dominates Upfronts Push

·3 min read

Kicking off its upfront day with an action-movie parody featuring Aidy Bryant, Kenan Thompson, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and others rushing to make it to the (ultimately virtual) event, NBCUniversal showcased its wares for the upcoming TV year by spotlighting streaming service Peacock to a nation emerging from the past pandemic-ridden year.

The event got underway hours after the mega merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia was formally unveiled to Wall Street, sending shockwaves through the industry.

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“Our No. 1 goal is to bring the our audiences the best shows,” said NBCU TV and streaming content chief Susan Rovner in a sit-down with Hoda Kotb on the “Today” set. That pseudo-interview setup threaded through the company’s entire presentation: Kotb interviewed Rovner, then Kelly Clarkson interviewed Renee Zellweger and Nicole Byer about drama “The Thing About Pam” and comedy “Grand Crew,” respectively, from the set of her own talker. The unscripted section of the event featured Kevin Hart on the set of his upcoming Peacock talk show, “Hart to Heart,” chatting with Meghan Trainor, followed by Andy Cohen talking to Ryan Serhant of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing,” and NBC Sports broadcaster Mike Tirico interviewing Drew Brees.

With the event divvied up broadly into scripted, unscripted, unscripted franchise and sports sections, the focus appeared to be not on any one of NBCU’s extensive web of broadcast and cable offerings, which include not just NBC but USA, Syfy, E!, Bravo and other networks, but on elevating the shows themselves, regardless of where viewers might have to go to find them. Cohen’s unscripted section, for example, spotlighted Bravo’s usual lineup of reality fare, from the “Real Housewives” franchise to “Top Chef,” as well as NBC’s longtime singing competition “The Voice” and lighthearted craft contest “Making It” alongside E! network’s “The Bradshaw Bunch.”

The exception was less-than-year-old streaming service Peacock, which NBCU is likely hoping to nudge to top of mind for advertisers. As Variety exclusively reported two months ago, NBCU is seeking primetime TV rates for commercials that will stream on Peacock, which notably only runs five minutes of ads per hour.

The company made the case for that Monday by having heavy hitters like Will Smith tout Peacock’s reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which he is executive producing, and giving time to trailers for Peacock dramas “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol” and Joshua Jackson and Christian Slater’s “Dr. Death,” the latter of which is based on the popular Wondery podcast. “Unidentified with Demi Lovato” and Bill Nye’s “The End is Nye” also got shout-outs during the presentation’s many montages of upcoming programming.

Apart from that, NBCU broke some news about its most prolific producer, Fallon, who notably is the executive producer, creator and/or star of no fewer than six projects at the conglom. Rovner told Kotb that NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” had been renewed for five more years, which marked an update from the previously known terms of his late-night show’s deal.

With Sunday Night Football, the Super Bowl, and the upcoming Olympics, NBCU is also counting on the post-pandemic comeback of live sports, particularly with the upcoming Tokyo Games, which were pushed from last year due to the ongoing public health crisis. As Frances Berwick, chairman of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said on Friday, the company will be responsive to change. “We’re really excited to have the Olympics and and I do believe that ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ will be leading out of the Olympics,” she said then. “If the last year has taught us anything, we can be incredibly facile about moving our schedule around to adapt to changing situations.”

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