More than a decade after its surprising cancellation, NBC has revived Dick Wolf’s mothership series Law & Order for what the network is calling its 21st season. The revival, which has been in the works through various starts and stops since 2015, gives Wolf nine shows across three different franchises on two broadcast networks and, most importantly, fulfills a “dream come true” for the prolific producer.
But what may be most surprising about the Sept. 28 announcement that gives Wolf a chance to boast the two longest-running primetime dramas in TV history (the other being Law & Order: SVU) is that the revival is for NBC and not its fledgling streaming counterpart, Peacock.
The streamer launched nationally in summer 2020, and by July’s Olympics — which was to have been the cornerstone of its debut — had reached 54 million sign-ups. Of those, around 20 million are active accounts, with half as many of those signed up for its premium tier.
Following a year that saw Comcast rivals restructure their executive ranks to prioritize streaming, Disney and WarnerMedia have put such prized titles including Marvel TV originals and revivals of Gossip Girl and Sex and the City on Disney+ and HBO Max, respectively, in a bid to use their biggest IP to draw subscribers to their upstart platforms.
So why isn’t the new Law & Order on Peacock?
Sources say executives at NBCUniversal — which, unlike Disney or WarnerMedia, is structured with a content group overseeing Peacock as well as linear networks NBC, USA, Bravo, Syfy and E!, among others — is focused instead on securing the biggest audience for content rather than airing it exclusively on Peacock.
“The Law & Order brand reaches different audiences across all of our platforms, and our goal is to bring the largest number of viewers possible to the show,” said Lisa Katz, president of entertainment scripted content at NBCUniversal TV and streaming. “This strategy enables us to leverage the broad reach of the network while also making the show incredibly accessible to all of its fans on Peacock. It isn’t a case of ‘either/or’ but rather ‘yes, and.’”
As part of the deal for L&O‘s return, new episodes of the series will be available the next day on Peacock as well as on Hulu as part of a remaining clause that grants the Disney-backed platform in-season stacking rights. Whether the new L&O will wind up as an exclusive to Peacock after the season ends will be determined based on how the show performs. Should it wind up exclusive to Peacock, it would join select episodes of the 20-season original L&O that the streamer acquired last year as part of a six-show, nine-figure deal with Wolf.
The L&O decision is but one of the many facing execs Susan Rovner and Frances Berwick, who work with Matt Strauss on efforts to deliver the biggest audience for content while growing all platforms across NBCU’s entertainment portfolio. Other recent moves include pulling back the Kate McKinnon-led Joe Exotic series, which was poised to launch simultaneously across NBC, USA Network and Peacock but will now be exclusive to the streamer, a decision based on what sources say was graphic content featured in the Tiger King scripted drama.
Sums up one agent of NBCU’s choice to prioritize broadcast: “Dick wanted it on NBC because there’s still 15 million people a week watching that show.”