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Peacock to Get Universal Movies 45 Days After Theatrical Premiere

Universal's 'Downton Abbey: The New Era'
Universal Pictures' 'Downton Abbey: The New Era' (Image credit: NBCUniversal)

NBC Universal said Thursday that the majority of theatrical titles produced by its Universal Filmed Entertainment Group companies will stream exclusively on Peacock, 45 days after their theatrical premiere. 

Starting with NBCU's 2022 theatrical slate, the majority of Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Illumination and DreamWorks Animation Films will stream exclusively on Peacock. Those 2022 titles include spy thriller The 355, starring Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz; Blumhouse Productions horror title The Black Phone starring Ethan Hawke; and the latest film iteration from PBS' popular turn-of-the-20th-Century English nobility-themed Downton Abbey franchise, Downton Abbey: A New Era.

The strategy is similar to the one WarnerMedia settled on with HBO Max. After roiling Hollywood by going day-and-date on HBO Max with 2021 Warner Bros. film slate titles, WarnerMedia also announced that the 2022 slate and beyond would debut on  its subscription streaming service 45 days after theatrical premiere. 

That strategy has helped HBO Max, which launched around the same time Peacock did, and also stumbled out of the gate. AT&T said that it expects HBO and HBO Max to finish 2021 with as many as 73 million subscribers globally. This is respectable scale, given that WarnerMedia and Discovery are about to combine operations and push their global customer heft up even more. 

As for Peacock and NBCU, the conglomerate said the streaming service ended September with 54 million signups. But it's been widely reported that not even 20 million users are paying the $4.99 monthly freight for Peacock Premium. Having exclusive recent release film titles in the Peacock Premium and $9.99-a-month completely ad-free Peacock Premium Plus mix might swing the momentum, as it did for HBO Max this year. 

“As we continue investing in the most valued and sought-after content for Peacock, films are essential to that mix,” said former Hulu chief Kelly Campbell, making one of her first public statements since taking over as Peacock president back in October.

Added said Peter Levinsohn, vice chairman and chief distribution officer for the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group: “Prioritizing the theatrical experience and eventizing our world class content remains the cornerstone of our business. By ensuring our upcoming slate has both a theatrical window and timely Peacock debut, we satisfy the needs and expectations for key stakeholders across the spectrum, from our filmmakers and producing partners, to cinemagoers and Peacock subscribers.”  

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!