Just 10 days after “The Courtship” premiered on NBC, the broadcast network fell out of love with its “Bridgerton”-inspired reality dating series and sent it by hansom cab to USA Network.
The move comes after the “Pride & Prejudice”-inspired series (first ordered for Peacock, the show was originally titled “Pride & Prejudice: An Experiment in Romance”) struggled to attract an audience with its first and second episodes. The March 6 premiere settled for a 0.2 rating among adults aged 18-49 and 988,000 total viewers, according to Nielsen’s Live + Same Day numbers, and its second episode dropped to a 0.1 rating and 623,000 viewers. For that second episode, “The Courtship” was broadcast TV’s single lowest-rated (and least-watched) show of the night.
But there is hope for the relative few hopeless romantics who tuned in: “The Courtship” will now air after “Temptation Island” on NBCUniversal’s top cable channel, USA, creating a reality-dating-show block on Wednesday evenings. As was the case with the short-lived NBC run, episodes of “The Courtship” will be made available for streaming on Peacock the day following their original USA Network premiere. As for NBC, it will replace its suddenly empty time slot with new episodes of “The Weakest Link” starting Sunday, March 20.
Even with the more complementary lead-in, banishing a show from broadcast to cable is never good. But it’s a luxury NBCUniversal, the home to linear TV channels NBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, E!, and Oxygen, both has and has exercised before. (NOT an example: The Kardashian-Jenner family took their ball from E! to Hulu, which is technically 33 percent owned by NBCU but totally controlled by Disney.) Now with Peacock under its wings, the Comcast-owned group has even more options – and it’s trying out anything and everything to find audiences.
Actually, let’s use Hulu as an example for a moment – an example of NBCU flexing for the sake of its mostly flightless (in several ways, Peacock has struggled to find and keep paying customers) bird. Recently, NBCUniversal yanked all of it’s linear programming from the next-day Hulu window in favor of Peacock. We see you, Kelly Campbell.
The Peacock president, who actually left Hulu in October 2021, told Vulture that her streamer is “experimenting with windowing” especially when it comes to reality TV launches, like Bravo’s “Below Deck Mediterranean” that hosted episodes one week early on Peacock before premiering on Bravo. “That was able to really grow that audience,” Campbell said.
Campbell isn’t just taking shows from one of NBCU’s platforms and moving them to hers. She’s straight up taking shows from other networks and bringing them to Peacock. The streaming platform recently scooped up the American version of British series “Love Island” from CBS in what ITV America CEO David George called at the time “unprecedented deal for an unscripted brand.”
Susan Rovner, the chairman of entertainment content for NBCUniversal television and streaming, added that the “highly competitive situation” surrounding “Love Island” helps make Peacock a “destination for must-watch original programming.” The three-tiered (one is free, but very limited) DTC service already greenlit two new seasons (and more than 80 episodes!) of “Love Island,” which is now set to film in California during Summer 2022.
It seems like the brand identity of NBCUniversal networks has been thrown into a tailspin amid the presence of Peacock. E!, which recently lost its number one-rated Kardashian-Jenner family to Hulu (NBCU is still a minority holder of that streaming service), has instead invested in reality TV by way of celebrity-run game shows like “Cash At Your Door” and competition series “Clash of the Cover Bands,” following the flop of family reality series “We Got Love Teyana & Iman.”
Meanwhile, day-in-the-life reality series are still big business for Bravo, but now with Peacock Originals complementing pre-existing Bravo franchises. Since its inception, Peacock positioned itself to be the perfect spin-off arm to support the Bravo-lebrities and feed into the Bravo Cinematic Universe. The 2021 release of “Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip” gave fans yet another inside look at their favorite Housewives — and in the case of its “RHONY” Dorinda Medley-led follow-up season slated for 2022, the spin-off perhaps presents former Housewives another shot at returning to their O.G. casts. “RHOBH” stars Kyle Richards and Garcelle Beauvais have also struck first look deals with NBCUniversal to create more content across all platforms, with a proven emphasis on Peacock.
Bravo’s “Below Deck” franchise was further elevated courtesy of new spin-off, “Below Deck Down Under,” sailing onto Peacock as opposed to its Bravo-airing counterparts, “Below Deck Mediterranean” (the channel’s highest-rated program), “Below Deck Sailing Yacht,” and the upcoming “Below Deck Adventure.” The short-lived “Vanderpump Dogs,” another arm of former “RHOBH” star Lisa Vanderpump’s empire following E!’s “Overserved,” also premiered on the platform. “Real Housewives of Miami” solely aired on Peacock, despite being a reprisal of an original Bravo series.
So what makes a Peacock vs. Bravo (now, NBC vs. USA Network) production?
NBCUniversal declined to comment.
And yet, when it came to “Keeping Up” with their own reality TV titans, Peacock couldn’t pull the ol’ umbilical cord trick and reshuffle “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” from E! to Peacock. In fact, Khloé Kardashian revealed that it’s a matter of streamer relevancy and not just the bottom line.
“For us to be still on cable was just not so on brand for us,” Kardashian told Variety.
“We wanted to be with someone that’s tech-forward,” Kardashian said of the rumored nine-figure Hulu deal, “so we’re with the times.”
Additional reporting by Tony Maglio.
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