NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell says new distribution model makes film business ‘better’

The CEO of NBC Jeff Shell will arrive in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 6, 2021, for the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference. After a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s richest and most powerful businessmen from media, finance and technology will gather at the Sun Valley Resort for an exclusive week-long conference.

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NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Sher said Tuesday that the company’s film business is doing well on a hybrid model of releasing some movies at the same time on theaters and streaming services, while waiting to make others available to audiences at home.

In an interview with CNBC’s David Faber on Tuesday, Shell said the pandemic-inspired film distribution model has been “attracting some of the best filmmakers.”

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In the past, studios typically showed movies exclusively in theaters before releasing them to home audiences, including streaming services. That changed when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down theaters, leading some companies to release movies directly on streaming services for a while.

Shell said the collapse of the traditional movie distribution model known as the Movie Window Program is having a positive impact on the movie and streaming business.

“In my opinion, this window structure combined with the fact that streamers really want movies, and movies are the driving platform, makes the movie business better economically,” Shell said.

The changing pattern of film distribution during the pandemic initially caused some conflict among media companies. Some have evaluated releasing movies directly on streaming services on a case-by-case basis, and Shell said NBCUniversal will continue to do so. Others such as Warner Bros. It also has many of its biggest films in theaters on its HBO Max streaming service and theaters.

“We are responding to this by putting more money into the business,” Shell said on Tuesday.

In many cases, the window to bring a movie to a streaming service or premium video-on-demand can now be as short as 45 days, halving the previous window.

Comcast’s NBCUniversal continues to adapt its approach on a film-by-film basis. Some films, like “Nope,” were released in theaters before becoming exclusives on the company’s Peacock streaming service for a period of time. Others, such as the latest installment of the “Halloween” film series, will be released in theaters and on streaming services at the same time.

“We’re making twice as many movies as our closest competitor, and we’re buying all of that content and moving it over to Peacock to build a streaming service,” Shell said.

Shell said Tuesday that Peacock now has 15 million paying customers and 30 million active accounts. Much of its user growth has been driven by content such as the company’s sports and movie offerings, he said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.

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