NBCU chief says PVOD will remain as ‘complementary’ offer to theatrical releases

"Trolls: World Tour" hit VOD platforms on April 10 priced at $19.99 per rental. (Universal)

NBCUniversal’s chief executive today addressed premium video on-demand releases that have opened a rift between the studio and movie theater chains.

During Comcast’s earnings call today, Jeff Shell said there’s “no question” that theatrical will someday again be the central element for NBCUniversal’s and others’ film businesses.

“The flip side is the majority of movies, like it or not, are being consumed at home and it’s not realistic to assume that this part of the business isn’t going to change,” said Shell, who said his company chose to release “Trolls: World Tour” on transactional VOD platforms on its original theatrical release date to “preserve the premium nature of movies.”

The “Trolls” sequel hit VOD platforms on April 10 priced at $19.99 per rental. According to CNBC, the film tallied up nearly $100 million in rentals after three weeks and that, even though the figure was smaller than what the first “Trolls” movie made in theaters, NBCU’s cut of the revenue has about the same for both movies.

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NBCU’s decision to skip over the traditional theatrical release window for the movie has roiled theater chain owners AMC and Cineworld, both of whom have said they will no longer show Universal films in their theaters.

Shell today praised the PVOD release for “Trolls: World Tour” but said that, when safe at home orders are lifted, he expects consumers will return to the theaters and that NBCUniversal will be a part of that.

“I also expect that PVOD is going to be a part of that offering in some way. It’s not going to be replacing it but it’s going to be a complementary element and we’re just going to have see how long that takes and where it takes us,” Shell said.

Aside from NBCUniversal’s high-profile PVOD experiment, the other major event for the Comcast division in April was the launch of Peacock, its new ad-supported streaming service. The service launched on April 15 for Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex subscribers only and won’t get a nationwide launch until July 15. However, Comcast said it’s pacing ahead of its predictions for monthly active users and time spent viewing.