NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service will be named Peacock, in a nod to the broadcast network’s feathered mascot.
The bird will be stuffed with such NBC favorites as “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Cheers” and reboots of science fiction classic “Battlestar Galactica” and orphan sitcom “Punky Brewster.” The Comcast-owned media company plans to introduce the service in April and heavily promote it next summer with content from NBC’s broadcast of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“What’s missing out there in the streaming world is content that feels current and relevant,” Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal’s direct-to-consumer offerings, said in an interview. “Ours will have news, sports, ‘Saturday Night Live,’ Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers — the entire family will be contributing to the new service.”
An ad-supported version will be offered for free, but NBCUniversal is expected to carve out subscription tiers with more robust programming. Executives declined this week to discuss the company’s pricing strategy, instead focusing on the Peacock’s producing partners and fan favorite shows, including “The Office,” which the Peacock will have exclusively in January 2021after Netflix’s deal for the comedy expires.
The offbeat sitcom, starring Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, is the most popular show on Netflix, but NBCUniversal, which produced the American version of the quirky British hit, reclaimed its rights. NBCUniversal wants to make it a centerpiece of its upcoming service.
The New York company got squeezed out in a bid to bring “Seinfeld” — the linchpin of NBC’s “Must-See” Thursday night lineup for much of the 1990s — to the streaming service. Instead, Netflix struck a five-year, $500-million-plus deal with Sony Pictures Television, which distributes “Seinfeld.” The Los Gatos streaming service was eager to shore up its library because it is losing two of its most popular hits, “The Office” and “Friends.”
AT&T’s WarnerMedia clawed back the rights to “Friends,” which was produced by Warner Bros. Television, for its upcoming HBO Max service. WarnerMedia on Tuesday separately announced that it was steering all 279 episodes of the nerd comedy “The Big Bang Theory” to HBO Max when the streaming service launches next spring. The company did not disclose terms of the eight-year deal but said Chuck Lorre’s juggernaut would continue to run on WarnerMedia’s TBS channel.
Netflix’s staggering bid for all 180 episodes of “Seinfeld” left NBCUniversal and other suitors in the dust.
NBCUniversal is betting that its young Peacock will have enough plumage to strut in an increasingly crowded streaming market. Its lineup will include original productions, including “Dr. Death,” starring Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan and Christian Slater. The show will be based on a true-crime podcast about a Texas surgeon who killed and maimed patients. The new version of “Battlestar Galactica” comes from Sam Esmail, the force behind “Mr. Robot” and “Homecoming.” It will also feature a comedy called “Rutherford Falls,” co-created by Mike Schur, Ed Helms and Sierra Ornelas.
The service also will include the comedy “A.P. Bio,” which was brought back to life after NBC killed it in May. There will be unscripted shows and movies from Universal Pictures, including “Back to the Future” and “Bridesmaids.” DreamWorks Animation, which NBCUniversal acquired in 2015, has been tasked with creating shows for children.
NBCUniversal also owns the Spanish-language network Telemundo, which will produce telenovelas, including “Armas de Mujer,” which comes from the makers of the blockbuster “La Reina del Sur,” for the upcoming service.
Peacock also will offer sports and news, which could prove valuable next year in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
In selecting the name Peacock, NBCUniversal is harking back to its roots as America’s broadcast pioneer. NBC introduced the peacock logo in 1956 to tempt viewers to rush out and buy color television sets. Comcast, which acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, knew that the peacock was one of the most recognizable symbols in the television world and so it added the peacock to its nameplate several years ago.
“We looked at thousands of names, actual words and letters,” Hammer said. “But we just realized that it was right in front of our nose. The name is tied to our legacy — it’s timely and timeless.”