Today in streaming news: NBCUniversal announced the name and initial content slate for its upcoming streaming service, and WarnerMedia reportedly shelled out at least several hundred million dollars to secure the exclusive streaming rights to “The Big Bang Theory” on HBO Max. Bazinga!
But first, the NBCUniversal streaming service. Its name is Peacock, and the ad-supported platform’s launch projects include a reboot of the sci-fi classic “Battlestar Galactica,” which will be executive produced by Sam Esmail (“Mr. Robot”). Not much is known about the series, but Deadline reported that Esmail is major fan of “Battlestar Galactica” and was eager to work on a project in the franchise as part of the four-year deal he signed with NBCU earlier in the year.
As for Peacock itself, pricing, distribution, and a specific release date are still under wraps. That said, NBCU teased a handful of other original shows that will air exclusively on the company’s upcoming streaming service. Among them is an adaption of Aldous Huxley’s timeless dystopian novel “Brave New World,” which was originally going to air on the company’s USA Network cable channel. Furthermore, “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,” will debut on Peacock instead of USA Network, though a source told Variety that the film could potentially air on the cable network following its Peacock debut.
And then there is “A.P. Bio,” which previously aired on NBC. That show was briefly canceled before NBC reversed their decision and renewed the show for a third season on Peacock. That NBCU is shifting exclusive content away from its linear channels to bolster its new streaming service’s library makes sense, but the move nonetheless shines an unflattering light on traditional TV’s relevance as new streamers continue to disrupt the television market.
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Other Peacock originals include a revival of “Saved by the Bell,” which will see original series cast members Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley reprise their roles and serve as producers. Peacock will also be home to a late-night show helmed by Amber Ruffin, “Dr. Death,” an adaption of the hit podcast about a neurosurgeon accused of maiming and killing patients, and a revival of “Punky Brewster,” which will serve as a continuation of the classic ’80s sitcom.
The company says Peacock will launch with over 15,000 hours of content, including more than 3,000 hours of Telemundo programming.
Per Variety, legacy shows on Peacock will include “30 Rock,” “Bates Motel,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Cheers,” “Chrisley Knows Best,” “Covert Affairs,” “Downton Abbey,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” “Frasier,” “Friday Night Lights,” “House,” “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “King Of Queens,” “Married…With Children,”“Monk,” “Parenthood,” “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Superstore,” “The Real Housewives,” “Top Chef,” and “Will & Grace.”
NBCU had plenty of information to share Tuesday, but it wasn’t the only company that announced major streaming news. WarnerMedia made headlines for securing the streaming and syndication rights to the ever-popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” in a five-year deal that is almost certainly among the most expensive streaming pacts in history. The words “almost certainly” were intentional, as WarnerMedia did not disclose the deal’s financial details, and reports on its value range widely, with some estimates suggesting it was worth more than $1 billion.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that even if the company’s “Big Bang” acquisition isn’t the priciest streaming deal the industry has seen, it probably isn’t far off. That a company would shell out a 10-figure dollar amount to secure rights to a television show for a few years should inspire plenty of hot takes, but from a purely business perspective, WarnerMedia’s staggeringly expensive “Big Bang” get is a potentially risky one.
“Big Bang” is, of course, one of the most popular television shows in recent memory, with almost every episode pulling in well over 10 million United States viewers, per Nielsen ratings. Though the 12-season series concluded in May, ongoing spinoff series “Young Sheldon” enjoys similar ratings success. Acquiring the streaming rights to “Big Bang”—which has never been on a streaming service—was said to be a major goal for WarnerMedia.
There’s little doubt that “Big Bang” on HBO Max could attract a considerable number of subscribers to the upcoming platform, but it’s unclear if the sitcom will be the deciding factor for enough consumers to justify the enormous price WarnerMedia paid for the series. A select few legacy sitcoms, such as “Friends,” “The Office,” and “Seinfeld” have retained their massive popularity despite concluding years ago and have already proved to be important additions to whatever streaming services they are on. That’s why WarnerMedia spent over $400 million to secure streaming rights to “Friends” for HBO Max, while NBCU and Netflix doled out similarly lucrative amounts for “The Office” and “Seinfeld,” respectively.
That said, those shows are the exception to the rule. “Big Bang” is immensely popular, but the series has yet to appear on a streaming service, and it is much newer than the aforementioned shows, so whether its popularity endures remains to be seen.
Regardless, the service’s “Big Bang” pickup sends a firm message that no matter how important original content might be, nabbing the rights to older, highly popular shows will continue to be a high priority that warrants significant financial investment. It’s unlikely that future streaming rights deals will surpass WarnerMedia’s “Big Bang” get, but only time will tell if the company’s $1 billion-odd gamble was worth it.