Peacock, Quibi and HBO Max Still Plan to Launch as Scheduled

Production and promotional issues haven't changed the premiere dates of upcoming streaming services

a collage of the names of upcoming streaming services
Upcoming streamers like Peacock, Quibi and HBO Max still plan to debut as planned despite coronavirus-related upheaval. Peacock, Quibi, HBO Max

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Major media events like the Olympics and live sports are getting postponed or canceled left and right, while much of Hollywood’s TV and movie production has been shut down. But so far, it’s all systems go for three major upcoming streaming services, which will make their debuts in a much different entertainment landscape—and a possibly very locked-down populace.

Peacock, the NBCUniversal streaming service that will offer both free and paid premium tiers, is still marching toward an early preview launch for certain Comcast customers on April 15, a spokesperson confirmed to Adweek, and a national launch date of July 15 is still in the cards for now.

That confirmation comes after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—set to be the cornerstone of Peacock’s marketing campaign—was officially postponed to 2021 this morning after weeks of speculation. Peacock’s content slate was going to include three daily live programs focused on the Summer Olympics.

“Sports, and the Olympics, are just one piece of our broad and differentiated content offering, and we will highlight the wide range of programming available for every consumer in the months to come,” the spokesperson said. “That said, we continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it changes day to day, and will evolve our plans as necessary.”

Even before Peacock’s soft launch will come Quibi, the short-form mobile video app from longtime Hollywood fixture Jeffrey Katzenberg. The app’s April 6 debut is still going forward as planned, a Quibi spokesperson confirmed to Adweek. Ahead of the launch, the streamer ramped up social ad spend considerably last week, according to the marketing intelligence firm BrandTotal, pushing out promotions for its star-studded lineup on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

For Quibi, efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus has directly affected a number of launch and prelaunch events, including the canceled SXSW festival, where Quibi had planned to have a presence, and a red-carpet launch event. But several of Quibi’s 175 freshman shows will be ready for the service’s April 6 rollout.

Whistle, a media and entertainment brand working on nearly a half-dozen projects for Quibi, is primarily in the post-production side of three of the programs it’s creating for the streaming service, meaning those shows will be unaffected by recent shutdowns, said Michael Cohen, Whistle’s president. (The company has two more shows with Quibi in the development stage.)

“We’re able to do most of the work in-house or from afar, and we’re not necessarily needing to be in the field right now—which is good, because depending on productions, pretty much everybody is paused on physical production in that Hollywood ecosystem,” Cohen told Adweek.

While that pause in production may not dramatically affect Quibi’s initial lineup, it could spell challenges for streamers whose launch dates are slated for later in the year. WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, which is still set to debut in May as previously planned, already had to delay production on its high-profile Friends cast reunion, one of the streamer’s buzziest original programs. An HBO Max spokesperson told Adweek last week that the company still planned on debuting the service in May with the reunion special in hand.

A WarnerMedia spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions today about whether it was reevaluating the launch plans.

All of this, of course, stands to change. Like other media companies, streamers are adjusting on the fly to the intensifying challenges of COVID-19 and its effects on programming, production and the workforce.

But as more people stay home, streamers are increasingly being seen as companies poised to benefit from an intensely captive audience. In a note Tuesday morning, Forrester principal analyst Jim Nail said the yearlong postponement of the Olympics could put streamers in an even more enviable position.

“The networks have to scramble for programming to fill this void, [and] if all they have is reruns, then more people might turn to streaming,” Nail wrote. “Streaming [services] might be in a better position if they can accelerate production of their originals to launch into the void.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.