Peacock to stream new Universal films like Jurassic World within 4 months of theaters

Universal films will have a new exclusive home next year. 


Angela Lang/CNET

Peacock— the partly free, partly paywalled streaming service operated by NBCUniversal — will stream new movies from Universal’s film studios no later than four months after they first hit theaters starting next year, the company said Tuesday. That means films from Universal, Focus Features, Illumination and DreamWorks Animation (including sequels in the blockbuster Jurassic World and Minions franchises) will be available to stream much sooner than they ever would have before the COVD-19 pandemic, and they should be available to watch for as little as a $5-a-month subscription (or, possibly, free for you). 

The new deal will effectively ends Universal’s long-running arrangement, known as as a pay-one window licensing deal,  with HBO and HBO Max. The deal shuffled all Universal’s films to HBO first after the movies had already been available in theaters, as online rentals and in physical formats like Blu-ray. The change means movies released this year in theaters — like current hits F9 and The Forever Purge and upcoming flicks like M. Night Shyamalan thriller Old and horror revival Halloween Kills — are still on track to go to HBO. 

But new Universal studios’ movies, like Jurassic World: Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru, are destined to Peacock. Peacock is not only much cheaper than HBO, but the new deal will bring movies to streaming much faster than the pre-pandemic norm.  HBO Max’s cheapest tier is $10 a month; Peacock’s cheapest paid membership is $5. 

Typically, movies licensed in a pay-one window would be available to watch on a streaming service or TV network roughly nine months after a film’s theatrical release. But the last year has seen a dramatic collapse of these windows as the COVID-19 pandemic forced cinemas to close and limit attendance around the world, decimating the box office. Studios, distributors and theater chains are now in the throes of figuring how long cinemas should enjoy exclusives on new movies as public health restrictions finally begin allowing cinemas to reopen widely again. While it’s too early to know what movie release cycles will be like after the pandemic, agreements so far indicate movies release cycles will never be the same. 

Peacock and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group said their new deal will have an 18-month pay-one window that it will split into three segments. Titles will stream exclusively on Peacock during the first and last four-month segments. Other distribution partners will soon announce rights to the remaining 10 months of that period.

“By showcasing content across multiple platforms throughout the pay-one window, [Universal] titles will constantly refresh across the streaming ecosystem ensuring no title or platform is oversaturated,” the companies said in the release. “This approach allows multiple audiences across a variety of streaming services to experience Universal’s award-winning and critically acclaimed film slate.”

Peacock costs either $5 a month to watch everything in its catalog with advertising, or $10 a month to unlock the full library ad free. Peacock also has a free tier that blocks those nonpaying members from watching certain things; in the past, Peacock has made new movies like these available only to its paying subscribers on one of the two premium tiers. 

But some people can score a deal that gives them an ad-supported premium subscription free. Peacock gives Comcast X1 and Flex customers and Cox customers the paid versions of the service at a $5 discount. So if they want to watch with advertising, they pay nothing for Peacock premium; if they want to watch ad-free, they need to pay $5 a month for the ad-free version. 

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