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Comcast’s Peacock has 18 million subscribers, exec says

The home screen of Comcast's streaming service Peacock.
The home screen of Comcast’s streaming service, Peacock. (Graphic by The Desk)

Comcast’s cornerstone streamer Peacock now has at least 18 million customers who are paying for the premium tier of the service, a company executive said on Monday

The affirmation came from NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shell during an interview at the UBS Global TMT conference in New York City, during which he said Peacock added around 3 million paying subscribers since the company’s most-recent quarterly earnings report, which covered a three-month period ending in September.

“That’s real subscribers paying us real American dollars, not some of the bundled wholesale stuff that you see outside from other people,” Shell claimed, suggesting that the 18 million figure did not also include Comcast’s video and Internet customers who receive Peacock’s premium tier for free.

The potshot appeared to be aimed at Comcast’s rivals — the Walt Disney Company, Paramount Global, Netflix and Amazon — some of whom have offered discounted bundles to their various streaming products, partnered with mobile phone companies to offer premium access to their subscription streaming services, or some combination of the two.

A variety of factors are likely spurring adoption of Peacock in American households: The company offers live telecasts of NBC’s Sunday Night Football to Peacock Premium customers, as well as other live sports events, including Spanish telecasts of World Cup games airing on Telemundo and NBC Universo. Comcast also recently inked a deal with Hallmark Media to offer its three cable channels as live feeds within Peacock, and full simulcasts of more than 200 local NBC stations and affiliates are rolling out to customers who pay at least $10 a month (or $5 a month with eligible Comcast services) for Peacock Premium Plus.

Shell said Comcast’s ARPU for Peacock is approaching $10 per customer, a modest gain for a streaming service that started just a few years ago, but still less than Netflix’s ARPU of around $14. (Roku, which offers streaming hardware as well as a free, ad-supported streaming service, reported ARPU of well over $40 during its latest quarterly earnings report.)

Another thing making Peacock attractive to streamers: Comcast is no longer playing nice with Disney on its joint venture Hulu. While Disney owns the majority of Hulu, Comcast still has a 33 percent stake in the venture. Several months ago, Comcast made the decision to move its entertainment, news and reality programming off Hulu and make shows exclusive to Peacock.

The move could impact Hulu’s valuation over the long term: Comcast is expected to sell back its stake in Hulu to Disney for a sum that will be determined based on Hulu’s valuation at the time of sale. That valuation could go down if Hulu suffers financially as a result of Comcast pulling its programming from the streamer — which means Disney would ultimately pay Comcast less for its 33 percent position in the venture.

That doesn’t seem to bother Shell in the least bit, with the executive touting Peacock as the new destination for Comcast and NBC’s entertainment programming, adding that it has helped fuel subscriber growth at the service.

“Not just a nice little kicker — it’s been above our expectations,” he claimed.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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