CEO Jeff Shell: Peacock Paid Subs Barely Scratch the Comcast Surface

NBCUniversal’s hybrid subscription streaming, ad-supported platform Peacock added 4 million paying subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31), to bring its total paying base to 13 million. The service ended the period with 28 million active accounts.

Among major branded SVOD platforms, Peacock’s paid user base is relatively small — a reality not lost upon CEO Jeff Shell.

Speaking on the virtual Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference, Shell said Peacock’s paid sub base only accounts for consumers not within the Comcast ecosystem.

“So, the 13 million paid subs doesn’t represent a fair kind of representation when we have millions of people in Comcast homes getting [Peacock] for free using the content, which we like, by the way,” Shell said.

Comcast ended the most-recent fiscal period with more than 34 million customer relationships, in addition to 32 million broadband subs. All of them currently get free access to Peacock.

“So, thrilled with our trajectory on paid, but obviously, a long way to go,” Shell said.

Meanwhile, Peacock launched with an ad-supported option. A strategy Shell says actually generates more revenue per subscriber than the service does on subscription fees.

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“Couldn’t be more pleased with that,” he said. “As I said, in two short years, we’ve ramped that up to a level, that next to Hulu, is probably second to anybody in the industry. We are getting CPMs [cost-per-mile] at the broadcast level, which we [didn’t] expect to.”

Shell said the ad revenue from stream “validates” the hybrid SVOD/AVOD business model Comcast chose — a dual revenue stream he says matches the core business. Shell finds it amusing that ad-free SVOD services are now embracing advertising.

“Everybody else who we were chasing before is now jumping into the pool behind us saying, ‘Oh, yes, we like this model, too.’ So it’s great and it feels good to be where we are,” Shell said.

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