NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the company’s flagship streaming service Peacock is “way ahead of where we expected to be,” but the company and parent Comcast opted not to provide any updated user numbers.
The exec offered the streaming update after Comcast reported strong third-quarter earnings, citing gains in broadband customers and Tokyo Olympics advertising revenue. The company’s earnings release did not include any stats from Peacock, a departure from the past five quarters. Until Shell’s comments 45 minutes into the call, the service was not mentioned in any detail. Last July, the company said Peacock had 54 million active accounts as of June 30, with 20 million of them classified as active monthly viewers. NBCU has projected it will reach 30 million to 35 million active users by 2024.
Peacock launched on Comcast’s own cable and broadband platforms in April 2020 before a full national launch in July of last year. The basic tier of Peacock is free, but Peacock Premium costs $5 a month, though it is included at no extra charge for customers of Comcast and select other providers. After years of deliberation, NBCU decided to throw its hat in the streaming ring along with several other media and tech giants. NBCU, Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia and Discovery have all spent billions to launch direct-to-consumer offerings over the past two years.
“Everything on Peacock is heading in the right direction,” Shell maintained. “There’s really nothing, from a trajectory perspective, that’s any different than it was last quarter or the quarter before. All metrics are pointed up. Our usage continues to be great, our mix of users continues to be great. We added a few million more subs, more monthly active users.”
The company “couldn’t be more excited about where Peacock is,” Shell continued. “We’ve been a business for just over a year and we’re already more than a third of what Hulu is now, which is a service that’s more than a decade in the making.”
Hulu had 42.8 million subscribers as of the start of July, according to Disney. While most Hulu subscribers get an ad-supported tier of the service, all of Hulu is paid subscription, while most viewers watching Peacock do not pay for a subscription.
Advertising on Peacock, which started as an arrangement with a select number of launch sponsors, has broadened out to the general marketplace. The current quarter, which will be the first to reflect a broader sales model, is “going spectacularly well,” Shell said. He pointed to major highlights in 2022, including the Winter Olympics and Super Bowl in February.
The gradual easing of Covid restrictions is also increasing the flow of movie and TV programming and stocking Peacock with a much-needed supply of originals. “You’re going to start to see a ramp-up of originals on Peacock, which is very necessary to continue to grow,” Shell said. While Netflix continues to set a high bar and dominate the streaming marketplace, newer entrants have at least mustered some marquee originals. Disney+ became known for The Mandalorian, Apple TV+ for Ted Lasso and HBO Max for The Flight Attendant and HBO-derived fare like The Mare of Easttown. But Peacock has not had a true breakthrough, though it has made a number of notable moves in sports, onboarding the WWE’s streaming service and foregrounding Premiere League soccer and other live events.
Day-and-date movies “move the needle,” Shell noted. He said Halloween Kills this month and the Boss Baby sequel over the summer were hits both at the box office and on Peacock in day-and-date release patterns, though he did not offer any streaming statistics. During the earnings call, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said NBC disaster drama La Brea was the most-viewed original on Peacock during the quarter.