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NBCUniversal Releases Movies On-Demand Same Time As Theaters Due To Coronavirus

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Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA) subsidiary NBCUniversal is bypassing the theatrical window for its movie releases as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak forces social distancing.

What Happened

Universal Pictures' upcoming release "Trolls World Tour" will become the first movie to be available on-demand at the same time as theatrical release on April 10.

Some of the recently released movies could be available as soon as Friday this week, NBCUniversal said in a statement on Monday.

Users will be able to rent the movies for a 48-hour period from Comcast or Sky for $19.99. The movies could also be available on the platforms of "a broad range of on-demand partners" like Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG).

"Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable," NBCUniversal chief executive officer Jeff Shell said in a statement.

"We hope and believe that people will still go to the movies in theaters where available, but we understand that for people in different areas of the world that is increasingly becoming less possible."

Why It Matters

The number of coronavirus cases has spiked in the United States at 4,661 by press time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

A number of theaters across the country are closed or working shorter hours as federal and state governments advise citizens to avoid participating in social gatherings.

NBCUniversal didn't say if the latest move has anything to do with its planned video-on-demand service Peacock, which is expected to launch mid-April.

Other on-demand services, including Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), don't agree to the theatrical window and release the movies at their platforms straightaway.

Price Action

Comcast's shares closed 8.37% lower at $36.04 on Monday. The shares added 1% in the after-hours session at $36.40.

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