NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform has been an interesting player from the sports perspective.
While Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and other competitors in the category built a content library not based on live sports (and while some, like ESPN+, focus on it almost exclusively), Peacock clearly had the Olympics in mind as a cornerstone of their launch in July of 2020. Except, as you might remember, there were no Olympics in 2020.
The service persevered, though, helped in part by the variety of content on the platform. Not just live sports, not just archived and original scripted programming, and backed by Comcast and the NBCU library, Peacock has crossed the 9 million paid subscriber threshold. That’s according to Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, who revealed the subscriber count on an earnings call this week. Until this point Peacock hadn’t revealed a paid subscriber count, making this is a noteworthy benchmark for observers.
Ahead of the call, Comcast reported in its Q4 letter to shareholders that Peacock hit 24.5 million monthly active accounts (MAAs) in Q4.
“Within these 24.5 MAAs are over 9 million paid subscribers approaching $10 in paid ARPU, which includes the advertising,” Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman-CEO, said during the investor call. “And that is without much focus on paid subscriber growth. We have another 7 million highly engaged bundle subscribers from Xfinity and other top distributors who use Peacock every single month and currently receive Peacock Premium and no extra cost.” Roberts says Comcast expects those bundled users to convert to paid subscribers.
Obviously for any OTT streaming platform, content is the key. To that end, Peacock is increasing their Peacock content spending by billions, including shifting resources from their traditional networks:
Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh also revealed that the company plans to double the content spend for Peacock this year to $3 billion and are optimistic that the annual content budget will rise to $5 billion “over the next couple of years.” NBCU will likely take an EBIDTA hit for the year of about $2.5 billion, Cavanagh added.
Roberts and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell were clear in the discussion with analysts that resources will be reallocated from NBCU’s linear TV platforms to help fund the spending increase for Peacock.
Peacock’s growth has been strong enough that Roberts says Comcast is “committed to reallocating resources and increasing investment” in the streamer.
Considering NBC’s recent EPL extension and deals like the one with WWE to license WWE Network for Peacock, along with the shuttering of NBCSN, it’s clear that Peacock is the likely long-term focus for NBC’s non-network sports programming going forward. Obviously we’re about to get another Olympics, as well, after finally getting the delayed summer games last year. Peacock isn’t making money right now, but Comcast and NBCU clearly see streaming as the future, and they’re pushing a lot of resources at the sector to try and stay in the game.