Peacock Streaming Service Tops 42 Million Sign-Ups; Eyeing Expansion Overseas With Sky

Comcast April 29 disclosed that NBCUniversal’s branded Peacock subscription streaming video platform has 42 million sign-ups to date across the United States. The platform, which launched nationwide July 15, 2020, ended last year with 33 million sign-ups. Comcast cited benefits from the recent addition of exclusive domestic streaming rights to WWE Network and re-runs of “The Office,” for the increased sign-ups.

Sign-ups versus SVOD subscriptions is key since Peacock is a hybrid business model where sign-ups to the AVOD option are required to attract advertisers, and can lead to paid subscriptions.

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Peacock, which includes an ad-supported free option; $4.99 monthly tier with ads (free to Comcast and Cox pay-TV subs); and $9.99 ad-free tier, had reached 26 million subs by Dec. 8, 2020. It is projected to reach 35 million subscribers by 2024, according to Comcast.

“We are off to a great start in 2021,” Chairman/CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. “Monthly users of the service are consuming 20% more programming hours each month than our traditional audience on NBC.”

Roberts said more than 1 billion hours of Peacock programming has been consumed — nearly double the hours projected.

“This strength in users and engagement has enabled us to create additional advertising inventory … with cost-per-thousands (CPMs) at a material premium,” he said.

Roberts said management is exploring using its U.K.-based Sky satellite TV distributor to expand Peacock’s presence across Europe.

“We’re looking to…strike partnerships with local programmers and distributors in geographies where it makes sense,” he said.

 

Peacock Distribution Ups WWE Q1 Revenue, Profit

WWE’s streaming video partnership with NBCUniversal’s Peacock SVOD platform paid dividends in the first quarter (ended March 31) for the professional wrestling company.

Peacock on March 18 essentially absorbed the WWE Network, the branded $9.99 monthly SVOD service, including 17,000 hours of content and 1.4 million subscribers. Peacock, which costs $4.99 with ads; $9.99 without, paid WWE undisclosed upfront fees per the agreement, which impacted WWE’s fiscal results.

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WWE operating income increased 22%, or $11.8 million, to $65.1 million as fiscal recognition related to the delivery of certain WWE Network intellectual property rights. Net income increased 67% to $43.8 million, from $26.2 million, on revenue of $263.5 million.

“During the first quarter, we continued to effectively execute our strategy, demonstrating our ability to adapt to a challenging live event environment and to expand the reach and monetization of our content in a changing media landscape,” WWE CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “The launch of WWE Network on Peacock, the multiyear extension to distribute NXT on USA Network and the successful staging of WrestleMania illustrate the enduring and increasing value of the WWE brand as the foundation for long-term growth.”

The Week the Pay-TV Bundle Died

NEWS ANALYSIS — Fox Corp. and Disney-owned ESPN March 18 became the latest media companies to ink 11-year carriage agreements through 2033 with the National Football League that include landmark direct-to-consumer distribution via ad-supported VOD platform Tubi and SVOD service ESPN+, respectively.

When combined with the NFL’s other new contracts with ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal, Fox Corp., Amazon and Disney, the deals are reportedly worth a staggering $113 billion to the world’s biggest-revenue sports league. Despite slumping ratings and empty stadiums, live sports remains one of the most coveted prizes in the television business.

Why? The pay-TV market ended 2020 on record as the one of the worst for churn, or subscribers canceling the cable bundle — losing 1.4 million combined subs in Q4 alone. Cable operator WideOpenWest in February revealed it would lose 66% of its sub base in the next three years. Household subscriber penetration now stands at 60% — the lowest level since 1994.

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“The media industry just suffered from the worst year ever for cord cutting,” analyst firm MoffetNathanson wrote in a note.

To stanch the bleeding, media companies, whose assets include pay-TV, now covet over-the-top access to the NFL in order to gain a stronger digital foothold. And the NFL was willing to oblige — for a price.

ESPN+, which ended Disney’s most-recent fiscal period with 12 million subscribers, for the first time will stream a Saturday doubleheader during the season’s final weekend and one Sunday morning game.

“There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN+, scheduling flexibility and enhancements,”  Jimmy Pitaro, content chairman at ESPN, said in a statement. “It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached [previously] with the NFL.”

Fox will create an “NFL experience” on Tubi consisting of fee-based premiere VOD as well as condensed free ad-supported games throughout the NFL season.

“We are pleased to broaden our deal to include new digital rights that provide us with the flexibility to deliver NFL to customers in expanded and innovative ways,” Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said. “This long-term agreement ensures that we will continue to deliver the best in football coverage to our viewers while also strengthening and providing optionality to our business.”

The “optionality” to deliver live football to consumers via subscription streaming video and AVOD is relatively new in the U.S., and underscores the changing dynamics surrounding content distribution in the digital age.

“People want to watch it whenever it is convenient right now,” David Mowrey, VP of product management with Clearlap, which conducted a 2015 consumer survey gauging consumer interest paying for live sports streaming access, told CNET. “There’s still a lot of opportunity to create better experiences particularly around streaming sports.”

Industry data contends there was a peak 105 million pay-TV households in 2010, a tally that has been plummeting ever since. Despite the pandemic putting increased eyeballs in front of the television, the pay-TV market declined to less than 83 million households in 2020 — with new estimates dropping that number by another 10 million in two years.

As a result, live sports delivered on cable, satellite and telecom premium channels was seen as the industry’s Ace card against further subscriber churn, according to Mike Vorhaus with Magid Advisors.

“Sports is a major deterrent to cord cutting,” Vorhaus said in 2015 — a lifetime ago in the rapidly evolving digital media landscape.

“I think it’s 10 years, and there’ll be a total change of the guard,” Chris Long, a former DirecTV executive and now CEO of Cedar Park Entertainment, told Variety last summer. “At some point, people will make that decision of ‘I can get everything I want [in streaming]. I no longer need to have 180 channels that I only watch 12 of.'”

Indeed, sports’ move to digital marks another blow to the channel bundle business model that branched out into online TV (Dish Networks’ Sling TV, AT&T TV and ESPN+ Live TV) in an effort to thwart subscriber churn.

But with OTT video behemoth Netflix uninterested (thus far) in live sports, ViacomCBS’ streaming platform Paramount+, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Amazon Prime Video jumped in the deep end this week, inking separate deals with the NFL, including Peacock and Prime Video being granted exclusive streaming access to “Sunday Night Football” and “Thursday Night Football,” respectively.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said ad-supported SVOD/AVOD platforms give media companies dealing with declining pay-TV revenue the ability to increase revenue and offset live-sports carriage fees.

The analyst said Hulu, through its ad-supported options, generates as much as $10 per user per month. The lower tier subscription is limited in its ability to deliver ads (usually three to four minutes per hour), but the completely free versions can advertise as much as 10 to 12 minutes per hour.

“So, there is plenty of room to grow revenue for most of these guys,” Pachter said.

NFL Inks New Carriage Deals With NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS; Includes Landmark Streaming on Peacock, Paramount+ and Pluto TV

The National Football League March 18 announced separate 11-year carriage/streaming video distribution deals with NBCUniversal and  ViacomCBS. The pacts include notable live-game streaming rights to games on Peacock, Paramount+, and in a first — Pluto TV — underscoring OTT video’s increased presence in live sports programming in the United States.

With the new agreements, which begin with the 2023 NFL season, NBC and Peacock will present “Sunday Night Football” through 2033 — a span of 28 seasons for NBC as the home of the NFL’s top-rated primetime package (since its 2006 debut). In addition, beginning with the upcoming 2021 season, Peacock will stream all “Sunday Night Football” games and the “Football Night in America” studio show. Peacock will also produce a new expanded postgame show following SNF each week.

“Sunday Night Football’ has been television’s most-watched primetime show for a decade, and we look forward to continuing our presentation of SNF, Super Bowls, and playoff games for many years to come, while also broadening our audience with Peacock becoming the live streaming home for all NBC NFL games,” Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a statement.

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NBC Sports, which produced the first-ever NFL broadcast on Oct. 22, 1939 (Philadelphia Eagles-Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field), will present four of the next 13 Super Bowls, including three Super Bowls as part of the new agreement. Home of the upcoming Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in February 2022, NBC and Peacock will broadcast and stream Super Bowls in February 2026, February 2030 and February 2034. NBC Sports’ presentation of Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015 is the most-watched show in U.S. television history (114.4 million viewers on NBC).

Meanwhile, CBS Sports continues as the home of the NFL’s American Football Conference (AFC), with all games broadcast on the CBS Television Network and streamed live on Paramount+. This historic agreement also grants an expansive list of NFL rights across ViacomCBS networks and platforms (i.e. Pluto TV), enabling the company to maximize its content creation, distribution and reach throughout the length of the deal.

The new agreement allows for CBS Sports to broadcast and stream more Sunday afternoon games and includes an expanded schedule of games featuring teams from the National Football Conference (NFC). In addition, the schedule is highlighted by 10 CBS doubleheaders, including Sundays at 4:25 p.m. ET, eight single-headers and the annual Thanksgiving Day game. CBS Sports will broadcast three Super Bowls over the length of the deal, including the first in the new agreement, Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, as well as Super Bowl LXII in 2028 and Super Bowl LXVI in 2032.

The CBS Television Network and Paramount+ will also present a full slate of playoff games, featuring the AFC Championship game, one Divisional game and one Wild Card game. A second Wild Card game will be added to the CBS Sports lineup during the 2024, 2029 and 2033 seasons.

ViacomCBS will retain extensive in-market exclusivity, ensuring that the CBS-affiliated stations and ViacomCBS platforms will continue to have local availability of “The NFL on CBS.” CBS will also gain increased rights to protect games from being flexed to other networks and time slots.

“Today’s groundbreaking deal ensures that more big games will be available on CBS and Paramount+, with greater NFL programming opportunities featured across all ViacomCBS platforms, including Pluto TV, vastly expanding the NFL’s reach among younger audiences in a rapidly evolving media landscape,” said CEO Bob Bakish.

 

Peacock Original Native American Comedy ‘Rutherford Falls’ Releases on April 22

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service is set to premiere original comedy series “Rutherford Falls” on April 22. Two lifelong best friends, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) and Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), find themselves at a crossroads — quite literally — when their sleepy town gets an unexpected wake-up call. Michael Greyeyes (“I Know This Much Is True”), Jesse Leigh (Heathers) and Dustin Milligan (“Schitt’s Creek”) co-star.

The series represents a breakthrough of sorts in Native American representation in comedy television both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to Schmieding (Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux) and Greyeyes (Nêhiyaw from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation), there are five Native writers on staff, representing one of the largest Indigenous writer’s rooms on television.

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Writers include co-creator and executive producer Sierra Teller Ornelas (Navajo), Bobby Wilson (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Tai Leclaire (Kanien’kehá:ka [Mohawk Nation]/Mi’kmaq), Schmieding, and Tazbah Chavez (Nüümü [Bishop Paiute Tribe], Diné [Navajo], San Carlos Apache).

The show’s co-creators and executive producers include Michael Schur (“Parks and Recreation,” “The Good Place”), Helms and Sierra Teller Ornelas (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Superstore”). Mike Falbo, David Miner and Morgan Sackett also serve as executive producers. The series is produced by Universal Television.

NBCUniversal’s ‘Hayu’ Reality-TV SVOD Service Expands to 11 European Countries

The Kardashians may have ended their primetime TV gig in the United States, but the celebrity clan is helping drive foreign expansion of NBCUniversal’s “Hayu” SVOD service showcasing reality television.

NBCUniversal International Feb. 18 announced expansion of the subscription streaming service to 11 European countries, including Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Switzerland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The $5.99 monthly SVOD service first launched in 2016 in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, followed by Germany and Austria.

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Hayu features more than 8,000 episodes of reality-TV programming, including all seasons of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the franchise’s spin-offs, in addition other franchises such as “The Real Housewives,” “Below Deck” and “Million Dollar Listing.”

“As Hayu prepares to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we are thrilled to [extend] the service to 27 territories worldwide,” managing director Hendrik McDermott said in a statement. “As the premiere destination for world-renowned reality TV content, this multi-territory expansion continues to deliver on our goal of bringing the best reality TV to even more super fans of the genre.”

 

NBCUniversal Announces Black History Month Curated Content

In celebration of Black History Month, NBCUniversal’s content distribution team Feb. 4 announced a list of television shows and movies featuring prominent African-American actors and stories for distribution partners across network, affiliation, streaming and pay-TV to include in their Black History Month campaigns. The NBCUniversal titles below will be featured for the entire month of February, unless otherwise noted.

Previously, NBCUniversal launched custom curated playlists with partners in honor of June’s Pride Month with Captain Sandy’s Pride Playlist highlighting LGBTQIA+ content on Bravo, as well as custom curations for a social justice playlist, and special destinations correlating with the 2020 Election.

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    • Television Titles
      • “Celebrity Game Face”
      • “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media”
      • “Kenan S” (premieres Feb. 16)
      • “Married to Medicine: Atlanta Season 7”
      • “Race in America: A Movement Not a Moment”
      • “Race in America: Our Vote Counts”
      • “Real Housewives of Atlanta Season 13”
      • “Real Housewives of Potomac Season 5”
      • “The Rev Season 1”
      • “This Is Us Season 5”
      • “Young Rock Season 1” (premieres Feb. 16)
    • Film Titles
      • 2012
      • Avengers: Age of Ultron
      • Blade
      • Blade II
      • Enemy of the State (Feb. 15-28)
      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
      • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
      • Fast Five
      • The Green Mile
      • Hancock
      • Olympus Has Fallen
      • San Andreas

NBCUniversal CEO: ‘The Office’ Doing Better on Peacock Than Netflix

On New Year’s Day, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service acquired away from Netflix exclusive streaming rights to reruns of “The Office,” in a license deal reportedly worth $500 million. Episodes of the ensemble-cast sitcom, which last broadcast in primetime on NBC in 2013, have regularly ranked among Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 streamed content on the television. Indeed, “The Office” was by far the top TV show in minutes watched in 2020, according to Nielsen.

That acquisition appears to be paying off for Peacock. Speaking on the Jan. 28 fiscal call, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said the right things about the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company series, which co-starred Steve Carell and John Krasinski, among others.

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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell

“We’ve had it now for almost a month, very pleased with how it’s doing,” Shell said. “Our usage among our customers are actually higher than we think the usage was among Netflix customers.”

With Peacock marketed as a hybrid SVOD/AVOD service, with an emphasis on ad-supported video, NBCUniversal is using the initial season of “The Office” and other high-profile content as a loss-leader for Peacock’s free option, with access to subsequent seasons on Peacock’s two paid tiers ($4.99 with ads; $9.99 without).

“We’re seeing that people who are watching ‘The Office’ on Peacock are watching lots of other comedies,” Shell said. “So it’s really driving usage of ‘Parks & Recreation,’ and really driving ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ among others.”

NBCUniversal employed the strategy acquiring streaming rights to England’s Premier League soccer, which Shell said has driven viewership of Western drama “Yellowstone.” He said the recent license deal involving the WWE Network streaming service would help generate viewership for WWE events on USA Network, among other content.

“We believe, there’s kind of an ecosystem here, like the whole world of broadcast where … we can cross promote people into different things,” Shell said. “And that certainly seems to be working and ‘The Office’ has really helped.”

Comcast CEO: Tokyo Summer Olympics Happening (Hopefully)

Comcast, parent of longtime Olympics broadcaster NBCUniversal, contends the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will go on as scheduled, a hopeful Brian Roberts, chairman/CEO, said on the Jan. 28 fiscal call.

“Sitting here today, I believe there will be an Olympics,” Roberts said. “I hope there will be an Olympics. And I think that’s our best intelligence, at this time. And we’re excited about that.”

While the quadrennial sporting spectacle might not have an Olympic stadium filled with spectators, Roberts said the Games could be carried out the way other professional sports leagues have continued their seasons during the pandemic playing in front of empty stadiums.

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“That will be up to the host country [Japan] and the host committee,” Roberts said. “We’re very hopeful and believe that they’ll find a way to safely and successfully have the Olympics.”

China’s capital of Beijing is slated to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, also exclusively broadcast in the U.S. by NBC.

The Tokyo Games, previously slated for last July, were to have been a huge promotional plug for NBCUniversal’s just-launched Peacock streaming platform. NBCUniversal has fiscal insurance policies in place should the Games be canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.

In recent years, the Olympics has largely become a nationwide televised marketing event for American viewers showcasing Team USA, patriotism and individual achievement — against the backdrop of endless ads. That could continue during the pandemic with a healing effect, according to Roberts.

“For us, [the Olympics] is a television event and would be an amazing moment for the world to come back together post-what we’ve all globally been through [with the pandemic], which is so unprecedented,” Roberts said. “So we’re super hopeful and optimistic.”

Peacock to Become Exclusive Home of WWE Network Streaming Service

In a major lifeline for pro wrestling streaming access, Peacock and WWE Jan. 25  announced a multiyear agreement that gives Peacock exclusive streaming rights to WWE Network in the United States.

NBCUniversal has a longstanding relationship with WWE that began nearly 30 years ago with “Monday Night Raw” on USA Network.

WWE Network’s steady decline in subscription streaming VOD subscribers came to a halt in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The professional wrestling service’s average paid subs topped 1.6 million, an increase of 6%, marking the first quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2019.

Peacock will launch WWE Network on March 18, beginning the roll-out of more than 17,000 hours of new, original, and library programming on demand and on a 24/7 channel.

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The companies will share details on managing customer accounts closer to the Peacock launch in March. WWE Network, including all PPV events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $4.99 — a $5 per month savings. For an ad-free experience, Peacock Premium Plus will be available for $9.99.

“WWE has always tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with spectacular live events and larger-than-life characters,” Rick Cordella, Peacock EVP and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

Cordella said the WWE Network is a “transformative” addition to the platform and complements Peacock’s catalog of movies and shows, as well as live news and sports from NBCUniversal.

“Peacock is an innovative platform that will enable us to showcase our most significant events, including ‘WrestleMania,’ and provide the entertainment our fans have come to expect with the combination of premium WWE content, live sports, news, films and television programs,” Nick Khan, WWE president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

The agreement includes all live pay-per-view  events, including “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam”; “Fastlane” will be the first WWE pay-per-view to stream on Peacock on March 21.

Original series include “Steve Austin Broken Skull Sessions,” “Undertaker: The Last Ride” and the all-new “WWE Icons”; in-ring shows such as “NXT,” “NXT U.K.” and “WWE 205 Live,” as well as replays of “Raw” and “SmackDown”; and “WWE Network” archives, including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history.

Documentaries include “WWE 24,” “WWE Untold,” and “WWE 365,” and, starting in 2022, one signature documentary annually.

Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices, including Android, Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayStation5; and Vizio SmartCast TVs and LG Smart TVs.