“We’re just getting started in unscripted”: Bill McGoldrick talks Peacock originals

NBCUniveral’s much-awaited Peacock service stepped into the streaming sphere July 15, joining the likes of recent entrants such as HBO Max, Disney+ and Quibi. The tiered service – which launched with ...
August 14, 2020

NBCUniveral’s much-awaited Peacock service stepped into the streaming sphere July 15, joining the likes of recent entrants such as HBO Max, Disney+ and Quibi.

The tiered service – which launched with 20,000 hours of content from NBC, Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen, History, Showtime, E! and Lionsgate, to name just a few – has since accumulated 10 million sign-ups.

Though the streamer’s offering is fortified by a robust catalog of unscripted content – from the Real Housewives franchise to NBC formats such as America’s Got Talent and programming from A&E and ViacomCBS –  Peacock’s original programming has been largely in the scripted vein, save for a growing number of titles including Lost Speedways and In Deep with Ryan Lochte.

Bill McGoldrick, president of original content at NBCUniversal Entertainment Networks and direct-to-consumer, tells Realscreen there’s more to come.

“We’re just getting started in unscripted. We jump-started a little bit with scripted because there were a couple titles that we were further down the road on, but we were talking about unscripted from the beginning and I hope they’ll have an equal weighting,” he says. “You may even see, in terms of volume, in terms of total hours, more unscripted [programs] because they’re faster to get off the ground. But we see them both as big players for the service.”

Realscreen talked with McGoldrick about Peacock’s plans for non-scripted originals, the pandemic and working with outside producers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Peacock is entering the streaming space with NBCU’s unscripted catalog, and you have deals in place with A+E Networks and ViacomCBS. Could you talk about how that complement’s Peacock’s originals strategy?

We are very fortunate to have such a vast library from years and years of NBC and the cable group’s programming. We’re already seeing some results on certain shows, especially in the comfort food category. We have [Chrisley Knows Best] on Peacock and that’s performing very well and a whole host of other things. Really, when you’re talking about combining acquisitions and originals, you could think of the acquisitions as the ocean level that sort of lifts the boat and the originals are the pretty little boats on top of the ocean. I probably talk to Frances Manfredi, who leads the acquisitions team, more than any other single employee — other than my direct reports — every day. So we try to keep things sort of closely aligned there.

This has been a pretty good year for original unscripted and docs, particularly with the streamers. How is that appetite for the genre informing Peacock’s approach to original non-scripted content?

The whole competitive marketplace is always informing our approach, and seeing what’s resonating and what’s not. I will say that we’ve pretty much stayed on plan and stayed very steady with what we’ve done. So there haven’t been major shifts for us this year. This is all part of the plan.

How has the pandemic affected Peacock’s plans to grow its original content, if it has?

COVID has affected every production. There is not a production that hasn’t been affected by COVID in some way. In order to counter that we did do a really fun Peacock At Home Variety Show during the pandemic that Seth MacFarlane fronted for us. And we did lots of fun content and that included Larry Wilmore and Amber Ruffin… We built the relationship there and those ended up being two of our first alternative late night shows, [The Amber Ruffin Show and the Untitled Larry Wilmore Show (w/t)].

Do you anticipate Peacock will take big swings on shiny floor formats like NBC has done with The Voice and America’s Got Talent?

We talk about it all the time.

When you have a sister company — and now we’re not even sister companies, we’re all part of the same portfolio — that does so well at any one genre, we have talked about how to extend those to Peacock or capture some of that audience too. But I don’t have one project right now as we sit here and talk that I can highlight for you.

Could you talk a little bit broadly about what types of unscripted and documentary content you’re looking at? 

I think some of the things that we’ve talked about openly and announced give you a pretty good indication. We were just ready to get going on a Real Housewives mashup, where we’re going to have certain members of the different casts of Real Housewives come together as an event. We still intend to do that when we’re able to produce it. We have The Kids Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and now that I think about it, that’s got a little bit of that shiny floor aspect that you were just asking about. We’ve got a documentary from Lorne Michaels called Who Wrote That about this terrific writer on SNL that wrote some of the most iconic sketches in the history of that show. So we have a wide breadth of offering. If you just looked at those three that I’d mentioned as an example, I think you’d start to feel sort of like the best of the NBCUniversal portfolio, but with a specific point of view for Peacock. We do think they’re all going to be very streaming friendly.

I should also say that we’re spending a lot of time talking about developing — I don’t have a specific project to mention –  in the co-viewing family space from some notions that were in development at Universal Kids. We think that could be a lot of fun too.

I’m assuming the bulk of Peacock’s content will come from internal studios, but could you talk about how you’ll be working with outside producers in the non-scripted space?

Honestly, I will tell you, we’ve got a lot of great shows from our internal partners and we’ll continue to — but, in the unscripted world, we have more freedom to go out there and make deals with people that are not from our studio. We’ve done that consistently, even within the portfolio, and we fully intend to do that for Peacock.

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