NBCUniversal’s Film Slate Steps Into Spotlight During Company’s Upfronts Pitch

The upfronts may be an annual ritual steeped in TV and streaming advertising, but NBCUniversal gave film more than a fleeting moment in the spotlight during its pitch to media buyers Monday morning.

The event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall opened with a prominent mention by TV and streaming chief Mark Lazarus of Super Mario Bros., the Universal/Illumination release that just became the first billion-dollar movie of 2023. NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Savannah Sellers followed a bit later to anchor a segment dedicated to the film output of Universal, Illumination, Focus Features and DreamWorks.

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Fresh film titles have become significantly more important to the progress of Peacock, with the streaming service revealing at its NewFronts pitch earlier this month that two-thirds of its 22 million subscribers have watched a recently released film. The company revamped its pay-1 window when an output deal with HBO elapsed last year, shifting it over to Peacock. When that strategy is combined with Universal’s opportunistic dealmaking with exhibitors, a healthy number of wide-release films from the company reach Peacock only a few weeks after their theatrical debuts. Although ads run before films, the features are not interrupted by ads, though most library films can be.

“Peacock is bringing films to the platform like never before,” Sellers said, noting a slate of straight-to-streaming fare including a project from Girls Trip producer Will Packer and a LeBron James docudrama. The service is beaming “theatrical-quality titles to audiences directly in their living rooms, or wherever they want to watch,” Sellers added.

A sizzle reel at the close of the presentation featured Donna Langley, Chairman of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “There’s nothing better than the Friday night opening of your movie,” she said. “There’s just that feeling of electricity and excitement.” She added that NBCU is a “playground for creative people.” Execs can point filmmakers toward opportunities “make content for theatrical and streaming and, perhaps one day, have the expression of one of their films in a theme park.”

The reel plugged a succession of upcoming titles, including Friday’s release of Fast X, John Wick spinoff The Continental and DreamWorks animated title Teenage Kraken. Some of the clips included the subtitle note that they will be “streaming after theaters,” though NBCU is less averse to straight-to-streaming features than some of its competitors.

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