One of the constants when major corporations make deals with each other is that they will always, always, be bad for regular people in some way. Maybe not every person, maybe not even most people, but someone, somewhere, will be put out by the simple fact that rich people are exchanging untold sums of money to make their rich person deals. This is all especially true when it comes to exclusivity deals during the streaming wars, which can make it a pain in the ass to know where you’re able to watch the things you want to watch—like Hulu’s recent loss of Seinfeld. Every major media company has their own streaming service or has some kind of deal with one of the streaming service holders, and while Seinfeld going to Netflix will be good for people who only have Netflix and people who make money based on Netflix doing well, it’s bad for everyone else.
Predictably, that’s all a setup to say that it’s happening again! As reported by Variety, Universal is going to be taking its movies to Peacock after their theatrical runs starting next year, ending a deal that had been in place with HBO since 2005. Now, this is specifically for what industry people call the “pay-one window,” which is the period when big movies premiere on premium cable networks or whatever a few months after they leave theaters—not to be confused with the HBO Max simultaneous theatrical/streaming releases. Since 2005, Universal movies have gone to HBO first after leaving theaters (the old system where something would premiere on HBO every Saturday night), but in a nod to how these various streaming services have been making big plays to fight for relevance, Universal’s movies (which also covers Focus Features, Illumination, and DreamWorks Animation) will now go to Peacock instead… temporarily.
Here’s where things get more complicated, and maybe a little more consumer-friendly: Starting in 2022, when a Universal movie’s pay-one window opens (usually 120 days after it’s released in theaters, a ways after VOD and home video sales begin), it’ll exclusively go to Peacock for four months. Then, for the next 10 months, it will be licensed to other places that aren’t Peacock. Then, they’ll go back to Peacock for another four months. In theory, this means more people will be able to see Universal movies, since they’ll stream in other places beyond just HBO or just Peacock, but also this is going to require some homework to keep track of where Fast And Furious 10 or whatever can be seen at any given time. Also, much like the fight over Seinfeld that happens every few years, Peacock will be able to say “we’re the only place that has Fast And Furious 10,” and then a few months later Hulu will say “we’re the only place that has Fast And Furious 10,” and then Peacock will say it again a few months later. And this is supposed to be the better alternative to paying for cable TV.