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NBC boss takes aim at Quibi while touting Peacock

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

The chief executive of NBC Universal took aim at defunct streaming rival Quibi, noting that his own company’s service Peacock has “stuff people want to watch.”

“It’s the opposite of Quibi,” Jeffrey Shell, the head of the Comcast subsidiary, said during an investor conference call on Thursday.

While Quibi struggled to attract viewers to its short-form, mobile-first streaming service, Peacock has signed on 22 million subscribers as of the end of October, Shell said.

Some of these subscribers receive Peacock’s ad-supported premium tier for free with their Comcast television or Internet service. That, combined with Comcast’s recent ability to ink a deal with streaming platform Roku, has helped boost the service’s reach compared to direct rival HBO Max and once-rival Quibi.

In terms of subscribers, Peacock is still eclipsed by services that have existed in the streaming space for far longer, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. But its momentum is similar to that of Disney Plus, which counts 60 million paying subscribers as of August.

Peacock’s success may be even more impressive compared to Disney Plus, considering the NBC-powered streaming service is available only in the United States, while Disney counts international subscribers toward its number. (Peacock is expected to offer an international variant at some point in the future, though the company hasn’t discussed those plans very openly beyond that.)

NBC shows and fringe live sports are considered some of the staples of Peacock, while the company’s original programming has been largely hit-or-miss. Prior to its launch, NBC marketed its original series “Brave New World” as an exciting, Peacock-only offering. The drama was canceled after just one season.

Other original programs, including thriller “Departure” (which was produced with Canada’s Global TV) and “Intelligence” (distributed in partnership with Sky, Comcast’s major television platform in Europe), have fared better with critics and viewers.

Peacock also began streaming the first three seasons of the Stephen King drama “Mr. Mercedes,” acquiring the program from AT&T’s Audience network and promising a fourth season in the future. The platform is also the exclusive home to Paramount Network’s breakout drama “Yellowstone” after each season airs on traditional cable TV.

Shell said the best is yet to come for Peacock.

“Most of our programming strength is coming in future quarters,” Shell said, adding that he’s “very, very optimistic on how the content is resonating.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).