Peacock nets 26 million subscribers, executive says

(Logo: NBCUniversal/Comcast, Graphic: The Desk)

When it comes to new streaming services, 2020 has definitely been Comcast’s year.

On Tuesday, an executive revealed the pay TV company’s direct-to-consumer streaming service Peacock had netted more than 26 million subscribers, an increase from 22 million one month ago and 15 million subscribers reported in September.

That number is something to boast about: Comcast’s pre-launch plan was to market Peacock as a destination not only for premium entertainment content from its library and third parties, but one that heavily leveraged this year’s summer Olympic games, of which subsidiary NBC Universal has domestic broadcast and streaming rights.

But the global health pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus forced the International Olympic Committee to postpone the games until next year. With that, Comcast shifted its marketing strategy for Peacock, focusing on its deep back catalog of hit NBC shows coupled with new original programs like “Brave New World” and “Departure.”

The strategy worked.

“We’re above where we were in the business plan despite not having the Olympics or any of our original programming [at launch],” Jeff Shell, NBC Universal’s chief executive, said at a technology conference on Tuesday.

Comcast’s decision to offer some of its TV and Internet-only customers free, early access to the service didn’t hurt things either, nor did its decision to partner with a handful of other pay TV companies. But the real shining star for Peacock has been its low price coupled with its deep content library: Out of three subscription tiers, most are opting for the middle of the road, $5 a month subscription that is subsidized by brief commercial interruptions.

Comcast also offers a free tier of service with a handful of shows and movies streamed with commercials and an $10 a month ultra-premium tier with no advertisements at all.

“The momentum just continues in a very strong linear way,” Shell said, adding that the momentum is expected to continue when it snags the exclusive streaming rights to its hit workplace comedy “The Office” in January 2021.

Executives project Peacock will have 35 million subscribers by the end of 2024, though it’s possible that figure will be reached much earlier.

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