Sorry, Comcast Xfinity customers: Your free access to the Peacock Premium streaming service is going to come to an end.
Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, said that making Peacock available to Comcast cable and broadband customers for no extra charge helped the fledgling streamer achieve traction after it launched in mid-2020, speaking Tuesday at the Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference. However, “At some point we’ll roll that to paid,” Shell said.
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Currently, Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers are eligible to get Peacock Premium with ads for no additional cost; that’s normally priced at $4.99/month. (For $5/month, X1 and Flex users can get the no-ads Peacock Premium Plus package, normally $9.99.) The offers also extend to subscribers with Cox Communications’ Contour service.
A rep for NBCU’s Peacock did not have information on when the free Peacock Premium promo for cable customers would be ending.
As of the end of the first quarter of 2022, Peacock had 28 million monthly active accounts, including 13 million paid subscribers, Comcast reported. That was a quarterly gain of 4 million paying Peacock Premium customers, but company execs cautioned that the Q1 growth was largely driven by Peacock’s livestreaming of the Super Bowl and the Beijing Winter Olympics during the quarter.
“Getting Peacock to scale, that is critical,” Shell said. “We are spending a lot of time on that.”
During the Credit Suisse session, Shell revealed that NBCU has largely completed its upfront selling cycle with volume flat, as declines due to “cord cutting were offset by [higher] pricing and Peacock for us.”
Shell touted Peacock’s dual-revenue business model, which includes both ad-supported and no-ad options. “Clearly we picked the right business model — now everyone is diving into the pool with us,” he said, referring to plans announced by Netflix and Disney+ to launch ad-supported tiers. According to Shell, NBCU earns more from advertising on Peacock than from subscription fees and is seeing CPMs “at the broadcast level.”
“In two years, we’ve basically caught up to Paramount, and they’ve been at it 7-8 years,” he said. Not quite, though: Paramount+ had 39.6 million global streaming subs as of the end of Q1.
Peacock will see “some real impact” as Universal movies flow into the first home window on the streamer through the rest of 2022 and beyond, Shell said. The studio’s 2021 movie releases were still on HBO; coming this year to Peacock in first-run windows will be “Jurassic World: Dominion,” Jordan Peele’s “Nope” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”
In addition, as of Labor Day (Sept. 5), NBCU is reclaiming next-day streaming rights to its full suite of broadcast and cable shows from Hulu, Shell said. Last month, NBCU announced that Peacock will be the first streaming service to offer access to Bravo shows the day after they air.
In 2021, NBCU spent about $1.5 billion on content for Peacock in 2021. The company expects that to double this year, to $3 billion, and eventually dial that up to $5 billion annually over the next several years. “I, for one, am not a big believer that we’ve hit peak content” on streaming, Shell said.
Regarding NBCU’s movie business, Shell said, “I was very frustrated back in 2019… I felt a lot of people were leaving money on the table.” Now, driven by the growth of streaming services, “we’re having a robust licensing business for our movies.”
Movie-release windows have not “settled into a calcified model,” he said, saying those are “bespoke” depending on the title. The home-entertainment window has moved up in recent years, and “it took a little bit of shrapnel to do that,” he said. Shell called out Disney’s recent decision to release box-office hit “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” on Disney+ just 47 days after theatrical release, which “was unheard of three years ago.”
Shell also touted NBCU’s theme parks business, which “came roaring back” this year. “That business is cranking.”
Asked about the effect of macroeconomic factors on NBCU’s business — namely, record inflation in the U.S. — Shell said the conglomerate “literally” hasn’t seen any effect as yet, but “going forward I think obviously you would see some impact.” For example, as gas prices and airfare rise, that would potentially depress attendance at Universal’s parks.
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