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Universal Moves Film Licensing Deal From HBO to Peacock, Bolstering Streaming Service

Giles Keyte/Universal/Kobal/REX

Universal will move its pay-one window for films from HBO to Peacock, the studio said Tuesday. The move is another sign of the importance that media conglomerates are placing on bolstering their in-house streaming services as they engage in a fierce battle for subscribers. Both Peacock and Universal are owned by Comcast. Universal’s films have been released on HBO since 2005.

Now, Peacock will have access to Universal’s most popular franchises, which include the “Jurassic World” and “Fast & Furious” films, as well as the “Despicable Me” movies and spinoffs. New films will appear on the streaming service within four months of their theatrical debut.

The new deal will kick off in 2022, but it is structured somewhat differently than past pacts governing the traditional 18-month pay-one window. Universal’s slate will go to Peacock as the pay-one partner for the initial four months of the period, as well as the final four months of the window. During the middle 10 months, those films will be licensed to additional partners, who will not have exclusive rights. Roughly two streamers or cable networks will have the rights to air Universal films during that period. Those partners are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Under its past agreement with HBO, Universal was able to license certain Illumination titles to Netflix, which is why “Despicable Me” and “Secret Life of Pets” films routinely turn up on the subscription service.

The studio hopes that by segmenting the release of its films across multiple platforms, it can refresh them across the streaming ecosystem to avoid over-saturation or the prospect that some of its film will seem stale. It also gives the company an important source of revenues. The rise in new streaming platforms such as Paramount Plus, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and, yes, Peacock, has left new entrants scrambling to lock up high-end content. They’re willing to pay top-dollar for the rights, as well. Sony, for instance, recently signed a pay-one pact with Netflix that sources said came with a recording-setting price tag.

In addition to licensing its films, Universal will produce a selection of original films exclusively for Peacock that will also premiere in 2022.

Variety's Brett Lang contributed to this post.


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