Once the streaming wars kick off in full force, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Quibi, CBS All Access, and Peacock are all going to need to fight as hard as they can to set themselves apart from the competition, and NBC has a surprisingly complex idea in mind for its streaming offering (it’s the one named after a bird). According to Variety, NBC is intent on getting new episodes of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and Seth Meyers’ Late Night on the streaming service early—as in a few hours before they actually air on TV—and it’s doing whatever it can to convince its local affiliates to let it happen.
Those local affiliates are the ones that stand to lose revenue from streaming as it is, because there’s no need to watch Chicago’s WMAQ-TV when you can stream old episodes of The Office on your Roku, but that’s an unavoidable risk in our streaming-focused future. Taking something like The Tonight Show and putting it on Peacock early is directly giving the streaming platform an advantage over the regular network that has nothing to do with the convenience of streaming. It would stand to reason, then, that the affiliates would be unhappy about this, but the Variety story says that NBC has promised affiliates that they “will participate” in whatever success that NBC sees with this scheme, and there have been “ongoing conversations” about whatever the hell that means.
What we would assume it means, though, is that NBC is going to throw money at the affiliates in exchange for getting them to sign off on this plan that is screwing them over, which would simply be the latest wacky move in the network’s proud and wacky history of bending over backward to appease the affiliates. As NBC fans will recall, it was pressure from the affiliates that forced the network to rethink its strategy with The Jay Leno Show at 10 p.m. and Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show at 11:30. Leno’s show was such a ratings disaster that local news broadcasts in between it and The Tonight Show were getting crushed, which in turn made it hard for O’Brien’s show to develop an audience. When affiliates threatened to rebel against the schedule, NBC made its lack of faith in O’Brien a little too obvious and he ditched the network. None of that’s really relevant here, but it was all done in the name of keeping the local networks happy.
Assuming this early Tonight Show and Late Night plan happens, they’ll reportedly start hitting Peacock’s premium tier in July. (For those who don’t recall, Peacock will be free with ads, but its originals and some nebulous collection of exclusive content will only be available for people willing to pay a monthly fee.)