said most of the original shows that were to headline the launch of its Peacock streaming service likely won’t be ready until 2021—another setback for a platform already coping with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next year.
“The majority of our original productions, like virtually all productions across the world, have been paused,” said Matt Strauss, chairman of Peacock, in a call to the press on Tuesday during which he discussed the challenges created by the global coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Strauss said the service would have a “materially limited slate and launch in 2020.”
NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which will become available starting Wednesday to Comcast customers and to the broader public on July 15, will have to rely on classic shows including “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and the “Law and Order” franchise to attract viewers for now.
When Comcast introduced Peacock in January, it unveiled a star-studded lineup of original content featuring Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan, Christian Slater and Demi Moore. Coming shows include a new version of “Battlestar Galactica,” and “Girls5Eva,” a series produced by Tina Fey, as well as “Brave New World”—based on the Aldous Huxley novel—starring Ms. Moore.
The status of those series’ launches remains unclear due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Mr. Strauss said “heading into 2021 Peacock will launch more originals.”
Mr. Strauss said he was optimistic that some original series, like the reboots of “Punky Brewster” and “Saved By the Bell,” could still debut on Peacock in 2020—although the company said it is too early to tell how long productions will be postponed.
NBCUniversal now considers 2020 a runway to 2021 for Peacock, when it will have the exclusive rights to its classic comedy “The Office,” as well as the postponed Tokyo Olympics and other original programming.
Despite this, company executives believe Peacock will get a boost from the fact that many Americans are currently sheltering at home, which has sharply increased TV viewership. Another factor: An ad-supported version of the service will be free.
“Nothing is more affordable than free,” Mr. Strauss said.
Comcast is playing catch-up in the streaming fight. In November,
Walt Disney Co.
launched Disney+ for $6.99 a month, while
unveiled a $4.99 a month offering with a smaller selection of programs. That added to the existing options in a market that includes industry leader
Prime Video and CBS All Access.
HBO Max, priced at $14.99 a month, is expected to launch next month.
Unlike many of its rivals, Comcast’s Peacock is planning to rely more heavily on advertising than subscriptions. Earlier this week NBCUniversal said Peacock locked in 10 sponsors for the ad-supported service.
Comcast believes there is a need for additional advertising-supported services as the market becomes saturated with more subscription-based streaming services on top of traditional pay-TV, Chief Financial Officer Michael Cavanagh said last year.
Starting in July, a free version of Peacock will have 7,500 hours of TV shows and movies, and some sports. Peacock Premium, which will have full seasons and more programming, including sports, will be offered for $4.99 a month with commercials, while an ad-free version will be available for $9.99.
Write to Lillian Rizzo at Lillian.Rizzo@wsj.com
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