The historic theatrical deal announced last week between NBCUniversal (CMCSA) and AMC (AMC) is groundbreaking for the industry — but it could spell trouble for smaller theater chains across the United States.
The new arrangement will allow the studio’s films to be made available as a premium video on demand (PVOD) offering after just 17 days in the theater, including three weekends.
The new theatrical window is much shorter than the traditional three months — which left analysts scratching their heads at the announcement. Some argued that AMC should’ve pushed for a 30-day window requirement, rather than just 17.
“We expected a 30-day window, and were surprised to see AMC agree to only 17 days, which increases the risk many consumers will wait a few weekends to see films in home rather than going to the theater,” Credit Suisse analyst Meghan Durkin said in a recent note.
MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson agreed, adding that “PVOD will likely dampen movie attendance.”
He explained: “If consumers are trained to wait only a few weeks to watch the movie at home, especially while increased COVID-19 risks still exist, we worry that the near-term impact on attendance can be more substantial and consumers in the long run will continue to opt to watch more non-blockbuster films in their homes going forward.
With theaters already under pressure from the coronavirus, “the number of screens in the U.S. [will] start to shrink as owners refocus on protecting their most profitable multiplex locations, which will hurt the overall exhibition industry,” Nathanson added.
But the freshly inked deal does seem to put a short-term band-aid on an otherwise large financial wound for AMC.
Last month, the theater chain nearly filed for bankruptcy before receiving an infusion of $300 million in debt financing from Silver Lake Partners. That, coupled with the bottleneck of films waiting to air on the big screen, has contributed to an uncertain future.
Although the financial stipulations of the new partnership have yet to be revealed, it’s largely assumed that AMC will receive a sizable portion of the PVOD revenue.
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell made it a point to clarify that this is not a replacement of the theatrical experience, but rather a compliment to it.
The executive told investors on the company’s earnings call that in-theater viewing will “some day again ... be the central element to our business,” but reiterated that on-demand films will “preserve the premium nature of movies.”
NBC’s Peacock spreads its wings
Meanwhile, the streaming wars are heating up, with NBC revealing its fledgling Peacock platform has amassed 10 million subscribers since launch.
Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told investors that the results “exceeded our high expectations,” adding that the network is “very encouraged” by its early performance.
Peacock, which first launched to Comcast users on April 15 before a nationwide rollout on July 15, follows fellow streaming newbie HBO Max (T).
Last week, AT&T confirmed that HBO Max received only 4.1 million total installs in its first month since launch — with three million new users purchasing the app directly from WarnerMedia via online signups. An additional 1 million came from wholesale customers who had access to the app from AT&T wireless packages.
Those numbers suggest that the majority of HBO subscribers — who automatically received the HBO Max app for free — did not access its content.
However, NBC is hoping its three-tier pricing strategy (and premium ad-supported offering) will pay off. With Peacock’s pricing, you can choose one totally free tier with access to most of the content with ads; or pay $5 per month for access to the full catalog (also with ads), or $10 per month for no ads.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193