Why ‘The Continental’ – a Spin-Off of Lionsgate’s ‘John Wick’ Franchise – Landed on Peacock and Not Starz

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The highly-anticipated spin-off “The Continental: From the World of John Wick” premiered Friday on a streaming platform some in the industry would find surprising.

What makes the show stand out — apart from its miniseries format, comprised of three movie-sized episodes spread across three consecutive Fridays (a callback to television events of yore) — is the fact that the prequel, spun off from one of the crown jewels of the Lionsgate portfolio, landed on the NBCUniversal-owned streamer rather than on Starz, Lionsgate’s own premiere cable channel and streaming platform.

The question remains: Why?

The show takes place in New York in the 1970s, but exists in the same shared, blood-splattered universe where, decades later, Keanu Reeves’ John Wick would go on a roaring rampage of revenge.

Basil Iwanyk, founder of Thunder Road Films, the production and financing company behind “John Wick” and “The Continental,” said the decision to move the spin-off from the Lionsgate-affiliated Starz to Peacock came from up top.

“We didn’t have a lot of input in that decision. The relationship between Starz and Lionsgate has been well documented in terms of the ups and downs,” Iwanyk said, referring to the fact that Lionsgate has wanted to offload Starz for a while, with the newly separated companies looking to be called New Lionsgate and New Starz. The idea is that the new Starz and Lionsgate units can be evaluated separately.

But there were other issues too.

“I will say that Starz, for the most part, was a female-driven platform,” Iwanyk said, referring to the pay cable channel’s shows like “Outlander” and “P-Valley.” “We were always counter-programming when we were on Starz because ‘John Wick,’ even though people love the show, is a much more male show. I do feel like at times we were trying to please two different masters when we were at Starz.”

The Continental
Marina Mazepa as Gretel, Mark Musashi as Hansel and Colin Woodell in “The Continental: From the World of John Wick.” (Katalin Vermes/Starz)

Indeed, the challenge of meeting the demands of Lionsgate for the project with the programming needs at Starz proved the series would benefit from finding another streamer that could best house the ambitious project.

“I think we found the better home for it, especially since they have all the ‘John Wick’ movies. It’s a perfect bit of synergy. We were told when those decisions were happening but they didn’t ask for our advice,” Iwanyk added of the shift to Peacock.

Erica Lee, a partner at Thunder Road, added: “It’s been amazing with Peacock. They’ve gone above and beyond. We’re really excited to be working with them.”

It wasn’t always like this. When “The Continental” was first announced in January 2018, it was within a larger announcement about Starz’s upcoming programming. The show received a green light with film franchise director Chad Stahelski tapped to direct the first episode. (“Menace II Society” director Albert Hughes ended up directing the pilot, titled “Brothers In Arms – Night 1.”) But by August 2022, the series moved to Peacock in what was described at the time as an “unusual move.”

“The John Wick films have become a global phenomenon, are among the most watched titles on Peacock and we are thrilled and honored to partner with Lionsgate to extend this incredible franchise,” said Kelly Campbell, President, Peacock and Direct-to-Consumer, in a statement last year. “We understand the value of a global franchise and Val Boreland and team knew that by bringing this special event series to Peacock and putting the full power of NBCUniversal behind it, the premiere of ‘The Continental’ will be the streaming event of the year.” (It will stream internationally on Amazon’s Prime Video platform.)

Nhung Kate in “The Continental. (Nelly Kiss/Starz Entertainment)

It’s true that Lionsgate isn’t beholden to one platform, making it a free agent in the streaming wars. The company is also attempting to sell Starz, probably next year (the sale faced a hurdle after Lionsgate’s $500 million acquisition of eOne from Hasbro and the regulatory issues surrounding the acquisition).

Lionsgate also has relationships with all of the major buyers and, according to an individual with knowledge of the agreement, landed a “lucrative” deal for “The Continental” to live on Peacock. (It’s unclear if, in the parlance of “John Wick,” the deal was secured using priceless gold coins.)

What “The Continental” deal with Peacock also establishes is that other big Lionsgate franchises (their IP war chest also includes “The Hunger Games,” “Now You See Me” and “Saw”) could easily go to other platforms, even if Starz remains part of the company.

It’s clear at least that, just as the assassins within the “John Wick” universe, Lionsgate understands the highest bidder always wins.

The post Why ‘The Continental’ – a Spin-Off of Lionsgate’s ‘John Wick’ Franchise – Landed on Peacock and Not Starz appeared first on TheWrap.