As managing director, NBCUniversal International Networks & Direct-to-Consumer and Distribution, ANZ, Chris Taylor has a unique perspective about where the TV business is heading in these markets.
The NBCUniversal channel brands here are Bravo (FTA in Australia and New Zealand), Universal TV (Fetch and Foxtel), Oxygen (Fetch), Dreamworks TV (Foxtel), plus news channels CNBC and MSNBC (Foxtel and Fetch).
The direct-to-consumer (DTC) business is the reality streaming service Hayu.
The content distribution business represents all the NBCU content pipes that come out of its major studio groups – Universal Studios Group and Sky Studios. There is also programming that comes from the US channels Bravo, Oxygen and E!.
In addition to the International Networks & Direct-to-Consumer and Distribution divisions, the NBCUniversal family in Australia includes Matchbox Pictures, run by Alastair McKinnon, and Universal Pictures International Australasia headed by Mike Baard.
Like all major studio groups around the world, NBCUniversal is looking at the business models work best in a world where mixes of FTA and streaming exist alongside each other.
Taylor told Mediaweek: “The company has taken what you might call a measured approach to DTC and may have appeared to some that we were slower out of the gate than some of the others. That patience in some respects has been a virtue for the company and we continue to take a measured approach to launches in other markets outside of the US.
“We have done deals in non-Sky territories with Paramount for Sky Showtime [across many European markets], and a deal in Africa with MultiChoice.
“There are different ways our studio is approaching DTC. Peacock was the first service to come out with a dual revenue stream model which was a smart decision. More services are moving into that space and it’s not a new idea as cable TV has been dual revenue stream for a long time.
“Locally NBCUniversal struck deals towards the end of 2022 across all of our major businesses with Seven and Foxtel. We decided that was the right approach for this market for the time being.”
How to watch Peacock shows in Australia
Foxtel has entered a volume commitment across all of the Peacock content for Australia where NBCU holds the distribution rights. Foxtel has a similar deal with Sky for its studio output.
Seven has sometimes been mentioned as a possible partner with NBCU on any launch of Peacock in Australia. When asked about plans for Peacock in Australia, Taylor told Mediaweek: “We are always looking at opportunities here and DTC is something all studios are examining for all territories for different points in time. Right now, we are happy with the status quo in this market as to how we do our business.”
Bravo in Australia and New Zealand
Bravo content pre-2019 used to find a home on Foxtel’s Arena channel. It shared that window with the DTC platform Hayu.
Since January 2023, and 2016 in New Zealand, Bravo has existed as a FTA channel. In Australia in partnership with Seven, in New Zealand now as part of Warner Bros Discovery.
“We knew how sticky the Bravo content was and how engaged the Bravo viewer is.”
While New Zealand got Bravo earlier than Australia, that market only recently got the Hayu service which launched in Australia in 2016.
CNBC was one of the first international cable channels Australian viewers could access when STV first appeared in Australia in the 1990s. NBCU’s other major news channel MSNBC is a more recent arrival. Subscribers to Fetch saw it first, and this year it slipped quietly onto the Foxtel platform.
“MSNBC is a channel that continues to go from strength to strength in the US,” said Taylor. “We saw how people were engaging with it via YouTube in this market and as we enter another election cycle in the US it was really important to me we got it placed. It was a case of getting a feed of the channel that wasn’t regionalised. We wanted to have the US feed for viewers.”
NBCUniversal’s breadth of content
Keeping the growing list of potential customers across all the different content available from NBCUniversal must be a challenge.
Taylor noted: “You will never hear me complaining about the size and quality of our product and the various production pipes.
“What has worked so well for us in recent years has been the diversity, the volume and the quality of the product we are producing. Whether it be from Sky Studios, Universal Studios Group or indeed the cable portfolio. That’s been a real blessing in a world where a lot of the other major studios had hoarded their content for their own DTC ambitions. It put us in a really good spot.”
Taylor agreed that content deals are a more complex negotiation these days compared to the past. “In 2013 when I joined, our output deals with Seven and MediaWorks NZ expired. At the time we thought we had seen the end of output deals. In the past decade, we have had the advent of SVOD and BVOD in this market. That has made the presence of distributors with large volumes of high-quality content really important for the various TV services.
“Our business has expanded dramatically in those 10 years with the acquisition of Sky and Dreamworks and the volume of content needed after the launch of Peacock.”
Although there are major output deals with Foxtel and Seven, Taylor noted they sell content to many customers. “Our library of theatrical product and our library television product is extensive and in the most part non-exclusive. We trade with everyone through different windows and that’s the way we like it.”
Taylor: “This is something we are looking at and talking to various players about. For the broadcasters who host owned and operated channels and licensed third-party channels, we want to be a player in that space. We have developed a catalogue of FAST channels we are talking to various players about.
“FAST is interesting. Four years ago many thought the future was all about on-demand and streaming and channels were dead. Now what many people want to talk about is a stitched together linear IP channel which is fascinating. The answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle.
“There is always going to be an appetite for the lean-back experience as there is for the lean forward program yourself on-demand experience.”
Key programming coming from NBCUniversal group
Taylor this week has been at the Mipcom TV market in Cannes. Here are some of the programming priorities from the group.
The Americas – coming in 2025. A look at the world’s super continent that stretches from the North Pole to the South Pole. An 11-part natural history series with narration by Tom Hanks and music by Hans Zimmer.
Apples Never Fall – a Peacock series launching early in 2024 and based on the Liane Moriarty book. Starring Sam Neill and Annette Bening and produced by Matchbox Pictures.Day of the Jackal: A co-production between Sky Studios and Peacock with Eddie Redmayne starring.
Lockerbie – a dramatisation of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie which is also a Sky/Peacock co-production.
St Denis Medical – a US mockumentary about an underfunded, understaffed Oregon hospital.
The Irrational – a US crime drama that premiered on NBC in September.
The above series will be seen in Australia under existing output deals with the exception of The Americas which is being promoted this week at Mipcom.