May 26, 2021
Since launching the Peacock streaming platform last July, NBCUniversal has been coy about how many subscribers the service actually has. Corporate parent Comcast reported 42 million Peacock sign-ups through the end of the fiscal period ended March 31. But that tally is largely window dressing since the platform affords users with a free ad-supported option with limited content; a $4.99 monthly option with ads; and a $9.99 ad-free tier.
Speaking May 26 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh shed some further light on the metrics, saying about one-third (or 13.8 million) of sign-ups use Peacock on a monthly basis. How many of them are paying a subscription remains unclear.
“We certainly would like to see more signups, more hours used,” Cavanagh said, adding the platform remains a work-in-progress convincing users to stream live sports (Premier League soccer), original sitcoms such as “Rutherford Falls,” “Friends” re-runs and live news going forward.
With Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ announcing monthly paid subscribers tallies of 207 million, 175 million and 103 million, respectively, Peacock has a subscriber gap of sorts to bridge. Indeed, Hulu, in which Comcast owns a 33% stake, ended the most-recent fiscal period with almost 38 million subs — 41.6 million when including online TV service Hulu + Live TV.
“We’re learning as we go [on Peacock],” Cavanagh said. “And that is shaping our plans as we go forward. We’ve brought content production back. Working on getting Peacock on other platforms.”
Cavanagh says NBCUniversal has the personnel and industry contacts in place to make Peacock grow ands thrive.
“By no means is streaming easy, for anybody,” said the executive. “I don’t mean to say that we have it all figured out. We’ll continue to view the world in streaming through a [strategic] lense. It’s early days.”
Cavanagh said the big bets being placed by media companies on global SVOD do not represent a path of success for everybody. On the heels of AT&T spinning off a minority stake in WarnerMedia, which includes HBO Max, and Amazon’s announced $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, media reports suggested Comcast chairman Brian Roberts had been interested in both WarnerMedia and MGM — the latter for about $6 billion.
Cavanagh said the cable giant has no immediate plans to jump into the mergers & acquisition market.
“We’re playing our own hand,” he said. “Scale is a word that requires some discussion. Do we have the advantages that we need? We like the portfolio of the businesses we have. We like the hand we have without M&A, but we’ll obviously do what’s right for shareholders as time passes.”