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Week In Review: Universal Movies Go To Peacock First, Roku Buttons Up Apple

1. Universal Movies Go To Peacock First

NBCU’s “We Didn’t Forget About Peacock!” campaign continued this week as the network proved it really did care about its streaming service after all by announcing that henceforth and forthwith, all Universal movies (that’s the “U” in “NBCU”) starting with the 2022 slate, would appear on Peacock once they were past their theatrical release period. 

The movies currently go to HBO Max. 

Why It Matters

The Japanese still haven’t cancelled the summer Olympics, so it looks like Peacock is going to be able to attract a whole lot of new subscribers, many of whom are likely to go in thinking “I’ll cancel the subscription next month as soon as the Olympics are over.”

By giving them unique programming options and movies they can’t watch anywhere else, NBCU is hoping to convince a number of them to stick around and stay subscribed.

This is not a crazy notion, as Universal has some high profile movies coming out in 2022, including the latest from the Jurassic Park and Minions franchises, both of which have appeal to both adults and (especially) adults with kids.

It’s a smart strategy and further proof that after falling asleep at the wheel, NBCU has seen the light glinting off those brightly colored tail feathers once again and Peacock is back in the race.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Peacock, you need to convince all those people who signed up for free Peacock that the real value is in paying $5 or $10/month for the subscription version. 

“And you get to watch the Olympics” is a good selling point, but you really need to  market the other things you’ve got going (The Office, any original series) because people are busy and it’s not like they’re going to go out of their way to figure this out on their own.

Fortunately you will be able to take advantage of Comcast’s giant marketing machine and the years of experience they have in convincing people to subscribe to cable. 

So there’s that, but then there’s that thing you just did where you let the movies go from Peacock to Amazon and back again, which is only going to serve to confuse viewers or train them to wait for movies on Amazon. I get that the cash is very tempting, but right now you need those eyeballs more than Amazon.

If you’re HBO, just shrug.

You still have all the first window Warner movies and all the HBO shows and now you get to bundle all your stuff together with Discovery and CNN. Those Universal movies won’t be missed.

If you’re the other Flixes, Peacock is back to being a real rival for those subscription dollars. While we expect there will be lots and lots of churn happening over the next few years, you can’t write Peacock off anymore as “aren’t they really just a FAST?” or “we have credit card numbers, they have email addresses.”

Also NBCU’s advertising organization is pretty on top of things too, so keep your eyes open.

If you’re Xumo, this is good news. Your value at the actual free service from NBCU is likely to finally be acknowledged.

2. Roku Buttons Up Apple

One of the most important weapons in the streaming wars is the much maligned remote control.

Once a brick sized appliance with a baffling array of multicolored buttons that no one save the engineers who designed them understood, remotes have been sleeked up, slimmed down and simplified. 

And rather than those Simon-like buttons with random letters on them, the new remotes have something far, far more useful: buttons with the names of various streaming services on them. 

So no more trying to navigate the menu or rolling your eyes when Roku and Amazon remind you that you could have searched for Netflix with your voice, foolish Luddite. You just push that little “Netflix” button on the remote and BOOM!—the halls of Bridgerton are there in their beautiful 4K glory.

So needless to say those buttons are prime real estate, especially given the high levels of technophobia among many of the newer converts to streaming.

Roku’s devices had an extra button, so to speak, as Sony Playstation is no more. 

And who should happen to buy that button, but Apple TV+.

Why It Matters

As we’ve been noting for the past several years, Apple’s take on TV is a mystery. They launched a service, promoted it heavily, spent millions on a range of well-received programming from The Morning Show to Ted Lasso to Boys State and then didn’t give anyone a reason to stick around once they were done.

As I’ve also noted here before, Apple TV+ feels like one of those trendy SoHo boutiques with a single metal rack holding six artfully arrayed white linen shirts. 

And nothing else.

It’s not like they couldn’t have bought MGM before Amazon did–they have over $250 billion in cash reserves.

I guess buying someone else’s programming would have felt un-Apple-like?

Maybe. No one seems to have any idea.

They are, however, actually starting to charge people for the Apple TV+ service that seemed to be perpetually free.

Granted $5/month isn’t a lot, and if you watch more than an hour a month, it’s probably a good deal.

But still…

Hence the Roku button.

Which seems to be an admission that maybe they can’t be all aloof and mysterious and Jobsian because that’s not the way TV works. 

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Apple, you need to get some more programming. All the buttons in the world won’t get people to stick around once they’ve finished Ted Lasso and anything else they might vaguely want to watch. And it’s still much easier to rent movies from Amazon, so the TVOD angle’s not going to work either. 

If you’re not Apple and you don’t have a button, there’s still not much to worry about. Without any programming to keep people coming back, they’re unlikely to be much of a threat.