Along with the streaming news, the company set a top-level executive reorganization that gives Mark Lazarus and Jeff Shell significant promotions.
Lazarus will have the title of Chairman, NBCUniversal Broadcast, Cable, Sports and News, adding oversight of the cable entertainment portfolio as well as NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. Shell will be Chairman, NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment, putting NBCEntertainment, International and Telemundo on his plate after previously focusing more on film operations. In coordination with the Shell move, Donna Langley has been promoted to become sole Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, taking on Global Theatrical Distribution and Home Entertainment.
The ad-supported streaming service will be available at no cost to NBCUniversal’s pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. and major international markets. Comcast Cable and Sky will provide the service to their collective 52 million subscribers in the U.S. and Europe. An ad-free version will also be available for a fee. Viewers without pay TV service can buy a subscription to the service.
NBCU will continue to license content to other studios and platforms, while retaining rights to certain titles for its new service.
While the company plans to continue to retain its 30% stake in Hulu, its strategy has come under some scrutiny in recent months as Disney and WarnerMedia have charged ahead with efforts to hold off Netflix and other streaming giants. When its acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets closes in the coming weeks, Disney will control 60% of Hulu, which just said last week it now reaches 25 million subscribers.
“NBCUniversal has some of the world’s most valuable intellectual property and top talent, both in front of and behind the camera. Many of the most-watched shows on today’s popular streaming platforms come from NBCUniversal. Our new service will be different than those presently in the market and it will be built on the company’s strengths, with NBCUniversal’s great content and the technology expertise, broad scale and the wide distribution of Comcast Cable and Sky,” said Steve Burke, CEO, NBCUniversal, in the official announcement.
He added, “People are watching premium content more than ever, but they want more flexibility and value. NBCUniversal is perfectly positioned to offer a variety of choices, due to our deep relationships with advertisers and distribution partners, as well as our data-targeting capabilities. Advertising continues to be a major part of the entertainment ecosystem and we believe that a streaming service, with limited and personalized ads, will provide a great consumer experience.”
Hammer, Lazarus and Shell will continue to report directly to Burke. Langley continues to report to Shell.
Before taking the streaming reins, Hammer served as Chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, overseeing USA, SYFY, Bravo, Oxygen, E! and Universal Kids as well as production houses UCP and Wilshire Studios. Despite headwinds across the cable sector in terms of live viewership and the ongoing disruption of streaming originals, the production ramp-up has helped Hammer’s portfolio post 15th straight years of growth in profit and revenue.
Lazarus, who joined the company in 2011 after stints at Turner and CSE, will continue to oversee the NBC Sports Group, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations and NBC Affiliate Relations. His run has been marked by the juggernaut Sunday Night Football as well as successful new deals with the Olumpics, NASCAR and the Premier League.
Shell will continue to oversee all divisions of the global film operations, as well as DreamWorks Animation, Fandango and brand development. In 2013, he left a post as international chief for NBCU and president of the Comcast Programming Group to run the film operation and many in Hollywood had questions given Shell’s low profile at the time in the movie business. Five-plus years later, the studio has been on solid footing, booking its two most profitable years in the studio’s 107-year history.
Langley has been chairman of Universal since 2013, leading production and marketing operations worldwide, including Focus Features and DreamWorks Animation. During her time as chairman, Universal has struck gold with homegrown franchises such as Fast & Furious, Jurassic World, Pitch Perfect, Illumination’s Despicable Me as well as Fifty Shades, Ride Along and The Purge.
Burke’s direct reports will continue to include Vice Chairman Ron Meyer, Tom Williams (Parks), Anand Kini (CFO), Linda Yaccarino (Ad Sales), Matt Bond (Content Distribution), Kimberley Harris (General Counsel), Adam Miller (Communications and HR), Craig Robinson (Diversity) and Kathy Kelly-Brown (Symphony).
Variety had the first report on the streaming and executive news.