Nearly 3 million new customers flocked to Comcast’s streaming service Peacock to watch a broadcast of a National Football League (NFL) Wild Card playoff game that was exclusive to the service, according to a new report from data analytics firm Antenna.
The report, which relies on opt-in data collected from financial information like bank statements and credit card charges, said an estimated 2.8 million new customers signed up for Peacock to watch the Kansas City Chiefs taken on the Miami Dolphins earlier this month.
While the game was shown on an NBC-owned station in Miami and an affiliate of the network in Kansas City, the rest of the country was only able to watch the match-up with a Peacock subscription, which starts around $6 per month.
Comcast said the game was the most-streamed single event in U.S. history, with around 16 million concurrent devices streaming the game and an average audience of 28 million across Peacock, broadcast TV and the NFL’s mobile TV service, NFL Plus.
On a global scale, the event was eclipsed by several live-streamed cricket matches offered through Disney-owned streaming service, Disney Plus with Hotstar.
Like other media companies, Comcast has increasingly looked at different strategies for maximizing returns on its multi-billion dollar investments in content rights. The company agreed to pay around $2 billion per year to secure NFL telecast rights through 2032, according to CNBC. Those rights include NBC’s flagship “Sunday Night Football,” which is typically the highest-rated, regular-season football game on broadcast television, as well as several NFL playoff games and Super Bowl championship events.
Relegating an NFL Wild Card playoff game to Peacock was part experiment, part gamble — a way to see if Comcast could convince football fans to part with $6, and evaluate how many of them were willing to stick with their Peacock subscription once they were introduced to the service. It was hardly the first time football fans were asked to pay for access to a game: Two years ago, Amazon clinched the exclusive telecast rights to “Thursday Night Football,” which now requires a Prime Membership to view (with certain exceptions), while the NFL itself has broadcast games played overseas on NFL Network, which requires a cable, satellite or NFL Plus subscription.
But the Peacock game felt different. Games with playoff implications have, historically, been free to access on broadcast television. This one wasn’t. In the weeks leading up to the game, football fans — and, at least one sitting member of Congress — expressed anger, frustration and contempt at the thought of having to pay $6 just to watch a single football game.
And, yet, the data strongly suggests that Comcast’s gamble paid off. Executives are likely to remark about the success of Peacock’s NFL playoff game when the company reports its financial earnings on Thursday.