Commentary

Theatrical Movie Window On Streamers: Goalposts Keep Moving

Despite a return -- in large part -- of movies running in initial exclusive windows in theaters, the overall new movie distribution model, which includes streaming platforms, keeps evolving -- but not exactly the way you think.

Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, says one of the changes coming out of the COVID-pandemic isn't the new mode of some film releases simultaneously launched on streaming services and in movie theaters.

Rather, it’s about the premium video-on-demand (PVOD) window. That is the transaction window where you can buy one movie at a time.

“What we've seen is a significant increase and how much money we're making in the home entertainment window really driven by that premium video-on-demand window --- $19.99 or $24.99 at home from day 17 [after theatrical release] to when we go to Peacock,” he said in speaking at the Credit Suisse media conference.

Much of this targets older, adult audiences who are strongly interested in what might be described as big popular, wide-release skewing movies -- like “Jurassic World: Dominion” or the upcoming “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Shell added: “We're doing that in partnership with the distributor, the exhibitors. So the more screens you put us on in the theatrical release, the bigger share you get of the digital window, which I think is a great model for us.”

But he adds that theatrical/streaming scheduling is still a fluid state. “I don't think it's settled into a particular calcified model.”

For example, there are other movies -- those older, adult skewing, lower money making “bespoke” movies. “Older adult movies, which will all have a harder time getting box office, might go sooner on the platforms.”

Shell believes films will continue to be a big deal when driving new consumers to premium streamers, and expects this model to be tinkered with for sometime to come.

And that includes altering and/or ending long-term promotional deals for consumers -- including offering free Peacock subscriptions to those who have the Xfinity pay TV service, run by a Comcast Corp. sister company.

In the end, all business and consumer participants will need to make adjustments to see the big picture.

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