After a tumultuous year of layoffs and massive internal change, NBCUniversal’s chairman of television and streaming Mark Lazarus believes the company’s “more unified approach” is going to pay off both in the short and longer term.
Speaking during a keynote conversation at the virtual NATPE Miami conference, Lazarus acknowledged that the re-organization to centralize NBCU’s content efforts under one roof was an “aggressive move” for the company, but one which was needed to become a runner in the streaming arms race.
“It positions us for the future and my goal is to make sure this company is resilient for the next two decades, not live off what is an awesome history,” Lazarus said. “It was an aggressive move for our company and for the industry, and we’re balancing that aggression with the core business and our need for growth.”
Lazarus pointed to the multi-platform series order handed to Kate McKinnon’s Joe Exotic project as an example of NBCU’s new-found flexibility, adding that Susan Rovner, who was brought on board to lead the company’s integrated television and streaming content efforts, is currently molding the studios into a “one-stop shop” for creators and showrunners.
The conversation’s focus then lasered in on Peacock, with emcee Hoda Kotb, co-host of NBC News’ “Today” program, pressing Lazarus on how the platform is performing to date.
After saying that NBCU will reveal “over the next few weeks” precisely how far the Peacock sign-up numbers have come since the 26 million figure that CEO Jeff Shell previously cited, Lazarus claimed that shows and films produced by the NBCU’s own studios have been the biggest “driver of sign-ups” to date.
Despite only premiering on Peacock at the beginning of the year, Lazarus said the platform is already reaping the benefits of having “The Office” as its biggest shiny new toy.
“It’s been the most viewed title,” Lazarus said. “We curated lots of different ways for people to enjoy ‘The Office’ or segments of ‘The Office’ or certain types of episodes…20% of our consumption has come from those super fan episodes and themed collections and playlists.”
One of the biggest disappointments of the last year for NBCU was not having the Olympics, which was supposed to serve as a calling card for the re-shuffled Comcast unit.
However, turning his attention to the future, Lazarus said he still hopes the Tokyo games will provide a significant boost both for Peacock and the NBC linear network, which will serve as the coverage centerpiece.
In terms of predictions for a 2021 filled with uncertainty, Lazarus said he expects the entertainment industry to get out in front of COVID problems and consumer demands.
“The pandemic and people having to change their lives so much has accelerated changes that were already taking place in our industry,” Lazarus concluded. “We have to lead the witness so to speak. We as an industry can help lead consumer behavior instead of just follow consumer behavior. I think that’s what will happen this year, I think we will get our arms as an industry around what the consumer is thinking, and we’ll be out ahead of them to provide them entertainment information that they need.”