Peacock Signups At 15 Million Vs 10 Million Six Weeks Ago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts Says News Soon On NBCU Programming Chief

Brian Roberts
Associated Press

Comcast CEO Brian said Peacock signups have surged 50% in six weeks and the app is the second most popular on its OTT product Xfinity Flex behind Netflix, and number three on Xfinity X1 behind Netflix and YouTube.

Peacock launched in April for Comcast customers and nationally in mid-July.

In a wide-ranging conversation at a media conference put on virtually by Goldman Sachs, the chief executive of NBC Universal parent said film and TV production is ramping up allowing the NBC to unveil a fall schedule in November and a strong slate of films 2021, a number of which have been pushed from this year. The ad market has picked up and the company is looking at two Olympic Games over the next 18 months. Roberts said that theme parks remain the biggest pain point in a COVID-19 world. Two of three park are opened and customer satisfaction is high, he said, but there are just people who won’t return until there’s a vaccine.

But he noted that parks was the company’s fastest growing business for a decade so he’s optimistic that things will return to normal when the pandemic subsides.

In an increasingly cutthroat media world, where entertainment and tech companies are starting to overlap in a major way, Roberts said Comcast’s ace in the hole is its large broadband footprint — expected to hit 500,000 net new ads this quarter and for the full year exceed the 1.3 million net new adds in 2019.

It’s about convergence, he said — big tech companies getting into media and visa versa. “And what’s at the center of that no matter where you come from is broadband,” he said.  “We are there, we saw this coming [so] we are one of the best positioned companies to play offense” in the current media landscape.

Addressing sweeping management changes at NBC Universal in recent weeks and months, he said it aimed at cutting costs across the TV business and streamlining “how we think about it.” Starting in May, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell led a major restructuring that created a new division, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming – including Peacock – that’s headed by Mark Lazarus as chairman. New was organized into a single unit led by Cesar Conde.

In August, all NBCU English-language linear networks were consolidated into one group, overseen by Frances Berwick on the business side and an executive to be named later on the programming side. Roberts said that announcement is coming soon. Matt Strauss was named chairman, Direct-to-Consumer, responsible for all aspects of Peacock.

The idea is, “Let’s come up with the greatest programming, knock down the walls of how you distribute it. First create content, sometimes for cable and Peacock, maybe just for Peacock, maybe to go across all three. [It’s] based on content. A focus on better decision making. It was the idea of Jeff Shell when he took over in January. COVID may have accelerated it.”

On the film side, Roberts said next year will be a great one for movie releases but tough financially for the studio since marketing costs for new releases won’t be offset by much residual sales from movies in 2020, when were were almost none in theaters.

He said Comcast’s overall financial position has seen a push to reduce debt. That’s come down from $107 billion following the company’s acquisition of Sky, to $89 billion and the end of the second quarter. Comcast acquired Sky for $39 billion in 2018.

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