NBCU’s Peacock Is ‘on the Right Path’ Ahead of Debut, Says Chairman

'It’s a marathon, and we’ve got a lot of endurance.'

Photo of Matt Strauss on stage
Peacock chairman Matt Strauss said there was 'never a doubt' that his team would be able to deliver, despite the pandemic. Getty Images

Key insights:

For Matt Strauss, pushing back the premiere date of Peacock was never an option.

The seasoned Comcast executive, who was tapped to head up the new streamer as chairman in 2019, realized soon after March’s Covid-19 shutdowns that the new streaming service would arrive in a different landscape than planned. It wasn’t just stay-at-home orders, office shutdowns and a surge in television viewership: Comcast’s biggest marketing vehicle, the 2020 Summer Olympics, was postponed in March, meaning that the company would have to pivot in more ways than one to make sure that Peacock was to arrive with a splash.

But there was “never a doubt” in Strauss’ mind that his team would be able to deliver, he said.

“This has actually been one of the most fun things I’ve done in my career,” said Strauss, who is also chairman of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises. “I’ve been in video for over 25 years, and it’s rewarding to be at this point in both the industry and in my career to have an opportunity to participate in this way.”

July 15 will be a big day for Strauss and for the company: Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new ad-supported streaming service, debuts nationally, marking the company’s splashy—if not somewhat late—entrance in the crowded streaming waters. Strauss, who is responsible for all aspects of Peacock, is tasked with making sure that the service—which will have a limited free ad-supported tier and additional paid tiers—becomes a lucrative revenue driver that’s attractive for advertisers.

Its early days, certainly, but Strauss said he is confident Peacock will be a hit.

“So many of us have been working nonstop for months on Peacock, and it’s really become a labor of love,” he said. “Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and looking at an unstable economy and possibly a recession, the service is more relevant now than it’s ever been. The notion of providing an affordable option in the market that will entertain people—that has a lot of us feeling very proud.”

Strauss moved quickly to adjust to a new work environment after Covid-19 prompted office shutdowns and stay-at-home orders for most of Peacock’s 1,000-strong team. In the interest of keeping communication lines strong among the team, who are based everywhere from New York and Los Angeles to Lisbon and the U.K., Strauss started booking calendar time.

He instituted a daily team meeting for check-ins and upped a once-monthly all-hands meeting into a twice-weekly cadence. Peacock hired 100 new team members, many of them internal hires, since March, all while working almost entirely remotely.

“It didn’t take long to build that new muscle to figure out how to operate in this new normal, and we’re communicating more now than we ever would have,” said Strauss, who has been working to launch Peacock from his home in Cherry Hill, N.J. “It’s one of the most important things we could have done culturally.”

The team has adjusted to other major changes ahead of Peacock’s national arrival. The service will have fewer originals than expected due to Covid-19-related production delays, and NBCUniversal had to craft a different marketing strategy without the Summer Olympics. That reconfigured marketing campaign, which put Peacock’s free tier front-and-center, is pacing well, and Strauss is optimistic that it will actually serve the company better with a “constant drumbeat of promotion” instead of an Olympics-heavy push.

“We’ve been able to recoup almost all of the impressions and [gross ratings points] that we had initially laid out when we were going to launch with the Olympics,” Strauss said. “There’s always a silver lining, and it turned out that we’ve landed in a better place. Not only are we going to have the same level of promotion, but we’re also decided to spread it out over the course of the year.”

"It’s a marathon, and we’ve got a lot of endurance.”
Matt Strauss, chairman, Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises

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