Peacock ended 2021 with 9 million paid subscribers, NBCUniversal revealed Thursday during parent company Comcast’s fourth-quarter earnings call, marking the first disclosure of Peacock’s paying customer base since the platform launched in April 2020.
Ahead of the call, Comcast reported in its Q4 letter to shareholders that Peacock hit 24.5 million monthly active accounts (MAAs) in Q4.
“Within these 24.5 MAAs are over 9 million paid subscribers approaching $10 in paid ARPU, which includes the advertising,” Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman-CEO, said during the investor call. “And that is without much focus on paid subscriber growth. We have another 7 million highly engaged bundle subscribers from Xfinity and other top distributors who use Peacock every single month and currently receive Peacock Premium and no extra cost.” Roberts says Comcast expects those bundled users to convert to paid subscribers.
Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh also revealed that the company plans to double the content spend for Peacock this year to $3 billion and are optimistic that the annual content budget will rise to $5 billion “over the next couple of years.” NBCU will likely take an EBIDTA hit for the year of about $2.5 billion, Cavanagh added.
Roberts and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell were clear in the discussion with analysts that resources will be reallocated from NBCU’s linear TV platforms to help fund the spending increase for Peacock.
Peacock’s growth has been strong enough that Roberts says Comcast is “committed to reallocating resources and increasing investment” in the streamer.
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This is the first significant update on Peacock since last July, when Comcast said it had reached 54 million total sign-ups since its debut in April 2020, and generated more than 20 million monthly active users during the second quarter of 2021. When delivering its Q3 results last fall, Comcast declined to offer a total number of signups or MAUs for Peacock, and today it did not reveal an overall signups tally.
Roberts said Thursday the vast majority of Peacock’s paid users choose the platform’s $5 ad-supported tier over the $10 ad-free tier. The Comcast chief says the company “is on the right path to create long-term value” with Peacock’s hybrid advertising-supported and subscription model.
Comcast, in reporting Q4 earnings Thursday, revealed that Peacock generated $778 million in revenue for the full-year 2021, with an adjusted loss of $1.7 billion. That’s compared with $118 million of revenue and an adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) loss of $663 million in 2020.
Another topic that came up during the 70-minute conference call was the state of Comcast’s talks with Disney about its final divestiture from Hulu. NBCUniversal co-founded the streamer in 2007 with what was then News Corp. Disney became a partner in 2009 and amassed majority control in 2019 after acquiring 21st Century Fox assets. When asked about the state of NBCU’s relationship with Hulu, Shell reiterated that the company intends to reclaim those rights down the road.
“Much of our strong NBC content premieres on Hulu, over time we’d like to bring that back to Peacock,” Shell said, though he declined to elaborate on possible plans for changing that relationship
“The most important thing to keep in mind is that we’re playing really a different game than our competitors,” Shell said. “We really believe that Peacock is not a separate business for us. It’s an extension of our existing business dual revenue stream. We are organized in our television business so that we run all of them together as one business. We program together as one business, picking the right model for each of our pieces of content to maximize that. And we think over time that’s not just going to lead to good growth on Peacock, but it’s going to lead to our TV business once we hit that peak investment period on Peacock returning to growth overall.”
Peacock has had a notably slower international rollout than its streaming competition. Shell told investors that they are taking a “a bespoke, country by country basis of how we expand internationally” that will be slower than NBCU’s rivals.
“Just like Comcast put their shoulder into Peacock domestically to get us where we are, without Sky, we would have been in a much different place,” he said. “With Sky, which has launched Peacock in the U.K. and Germany and is launching in Italy later this year, combined with the Sky-Showtime joint venture that we have, we believe all of those territories get us, with the U.S., to 70% of the overall streaming market.”