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NBC’s Peacock Launches With Free Tier to Compete in Streaming Wars, But Local Stations are Boycotting It By Refusing to Air “30 Rock” Special

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  • In a bid to compete with an increasingly competitive streaming market, NBC launched its streaming service Peacock on Wednesday with a free, ad-supported tier.
  • That tier contains about two-thirds of Peacock’s entire catalogue, with the rest being locked behind two different premium tiers: one ad-supported and one ad-free.
  • At the same time, most local NBC stations in the United States are refusing to air an upcoming “30 Rock” reunion special that will essentially be a giant advertisement for Peacock.
  • The reason NBC affiliates are boycotting the special is because they’re afraid Peacock will kill their viewership as people shift to online streaming.
  • Because of the boycott, reportedly, only about 40% of the country will be able to watch the special when it first airs. 

30 Rock” Special Boycotted By Affiliates

Major local TV station groups are preparing for a battle with NBCUniversal and its new streaming service Peacock, which launched Wednesday.

The casualty? “30 Rock,” a show which originally aired from 2006 to 2013, starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracey Morgan, and Jane Krakowski. 

As a way to boost its promotion of Peacock, NBC developed a one-hour “30 Rock” reunion special which is set to air Thursday night. In fact, the special is going to be so much of a promotion that, according to Vulture, it won’t include any traditional commercials and was even produced by NBCUniversal’s ad-sales division. 

However, that decision has left local NBC affiliate groups feeling like they’re being sidelined by NBCUniversal so that it can push its new streaming service. Because of that, it’s now being reported that most local NBC stations across the United States will refuse to air the “30 Rock” reunion.

In fact, the decision to boycott this special mainly comes directly from the massive media groups that own these local stations—not the stations themselves. That includes Gray Television, Hearst, Nexstar, Tegna, and Sinclair. Notably, Nexstar and Sinclair are the two largest owners of local stations in the country and control hundreds of stations each. 

The boycott will reportedly be so extensive that only about 40% of the country will even have the ability to watch that special when it first airs. 

“Station owners are understandably worried about Peacock siphoning viewers from linear TV, particularly since the new platform will offer next-day reruns of NBC shows on its premium tier (and week-late access to reruns on its free level),” Vulture reported.

It’s not unusual for local TV stations to interrupt shows for sports coverage or when there’s severe weather (or even if they’re concerned a program is too controversial), but it is unprecedented for multiple, major broadcast groups to have their stations all boycott a prime-time special.

Still, the decision to boycott the “30 Rock” won’t actually have any direct financial impact for NBC since it won’t be airing any commercials; however, that’s not the case for local stations airing the special. Because the hour will essentially be an uninterrupted infomercial for Peacock, those stations will be unable to air local ads—a major form of revenue for them.

While it would only mean one hour of ad revenue lost, most stations are able to sell more expensive ad slots during prime time. They’ve also already been struggling to retain advertisers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have suffered from sharp declines in ad sales.

The boycott also comes after NBCUniversal decided in January that Peacock would stream episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” hours ahead of their broadcast on live TV. Notably, those shows will only air early for Premium subscribers, but it still means local TV  affiliates would essentially be airing reruns. 

That decision presented a major concern for TV stations, which must pay substantial fees for the rights to NBC shows and which are already facing declines in viewership.

It is possible, however, that the boycott could inadvertently push viewers wishing to watch the special to Peacock. In any case, cable TV will likely continue to struggle to retain viewers as they make the switch to streaming platforms. 

Peacock Launches With Free Tier

On top of the push and pull between cable and streaming services, competition among streaming providers is fierce. In fact, the market is already saturated with options such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBOMax, CBS All Access, and Apple TV+.

Because of that, there are serious concerns about whether Peacock can stay afloat in an industry already filled with, at times, seemingly limitless options on what to watch. For example, Apple TV+, which launched in November, has never attracted the viewership it had hoped to achieve. That’s despite heavily pushing a series headlined by Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell.

However, the major difference between Peacock and other platforms is that Peacock is free—well, sort of. Along with two different premium tiers, it’s also offering a free tier with roughly 13,000 hours of content. 

Under the free tier, viewers can watch whole series such as ‘This Is Us,” “Parks & Rec,” “30 Rock,” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” They can also stream full movies like the original “Jurassic Parks” and “The Matrix.”

If viewers want to see other shows, such as “Superstore,” or even a movie like “Shrek,” they will then have to upgrade to a premium tier, which will unlock about 7,000 more hours of additional content.

“The ‘freemium’ model will be the secret weapon for Peacock to win against the other big streaming services,” Michael J. Wolf, chief executive of the tech consulting firm Activate, told CNET. 

Wolf added that the free tier “will ensure that Peacock comes out of the gate with a large base of users and will be the service’s surest path to scale.”

Additionally, Peacock will still be able to collect revenue from the free tier, as it will be supported by ad sales. Even if viewers upgrade to the lowest premium tier, which is $5 a month, they’ll still see around 5 to 7 minutes of ads. The highest tier, which is $10 a month, is ad-free.

See what others are saying: (Vulture) (CNET) (Deadline)

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JoJo Siwa Swatted After Coming Out as Member of LGBTQ+ Community

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  • In an Instagram live on Saturday, YouTube star JoJo Siwa confirmed that police were called to her house on a false report, a dangerous trend commonly referred to as swatting. 
  • The incident happened hours after Siwa publicly confirmed that she is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Siwa believes members of the media may have called the police in an effort to force her out of her home so they could photograph her amid the excitement surrounding her announcement. 

JoJo Siwa’s House Gets Swatted

JoJo Siwa, the 17-year old YouTube star who is massively popular among kids, was swatted at her home on Saturday, hours after coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

During an Instagram Live with her videographer Nate Javier, Siwa confirmed that officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were called to her house on a false report.

Everyone inside had to step out with their hands up. As this happened, Siwa says paparazzi came out from around the corner.

She believes the media called the police to force her outside so they could photograph her while there was so much excitement surrounding her coming out. 

She called the incident “really scary” but said that she is safe and fine. 

“For me it was no big deal to walk outside my house. I’m okay,” she said. “But I feel bad because there was about 50 police at our house and those police could have had much better time spent somewhere else actually helping somebody instead of dealing with a fake claim from paparazzi.” 

Siwa Comes Out

Siwa made headlines over the weekend as fans began to speculate that she might be coming out. They were first tipped off by a handful of TikToks she appeared in, including one where she lip-synched to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. Then on Friday, Siwa shared a photo of herself wearing a shirt from her cousin that said “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.”

Many took this photo as her coming out and began to celebrate her for sharing this. On Saturday the star went live on Instagram confirming that she is part of the LGTBQ community. She thanked her fans for their support. 

“I have never ever ever been this happy before and it feels awesome,” she said.  

Siwa said she is not yet ready to specifically label herself and that right now she is just happy to be open and sharing this part of her life with the public. 

“The reason I’m not ready to say this answer is because I don’t really know this answer,” she explained. 

“I wanna share everything with the world. I really do. But I also want to keep things in my life private until they are ready to be public,” Siwa continued. “Right now what matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love, that it’s okay.”

Praise for Siwa Rolls In 

Many stars have applauded Siwa online, including actress Kerry Washington, singer Lil Nas X, and YouTubers Liza Koshy and Colleen Ballinger. 

“You’ve got our love,” Koshy wrote. “Shine on as always!”

“This is the happiest I’ve ever seen you,” Ballinger said. “You’re absolutely glowing and I’m so proud of the woman you are becoming. 

Many were also quick to point out the potential impact her coming out could have considering her large following of young people. 

“JoJo Siwa’s decision to share her truth with the world is a powerful moment,” wrote Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD. 

“As one of the most influential young role models today, Jojo’s story is a reminder for LGBTQ youth to love who they are and to find safe and welcoming environments to speak out.”

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Newsweek) (Seventeen)

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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