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Peacock Subscriptions? Comcast Would Rather Talk About Something Else in Q3 2021 Earnings Report

Although Comcast beat analyst expectations, executives declined to provide meaningful statistics on Peacock's performance.

"Halloween Kills"

“Halloween Kills”


Comcast touted a revenue boost from the Tokyo Olympics in the company’s Q3 2021 earnings report, but dodged questions about Peacock’s performance in an analysts call Thursday.

Peacock, the NBCUniversal-owned streaming service that launched nationally in July 2020, has been a key discussion point in Comcast’s earnings reports over the last year. Though Comcast executives shared Peacock sign-up data in prior earnings reports, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell declined to provide new Peacock data in response to analysts’ questions beyond stating that “a few million” users signed up for the streaming service, which offers both a free, ad-supported tier and two paid premium tiers.

A Comcast spokesperson did not return a request for comment regarding Peacock’s Q3 membership growth, its monthly active users, or the streaming service’s breakdown of free users versus the subscribers of its paid premium tiers.

Overall, Comcast exceeded expectations: Earnings of 87 cents per share beat expectations of 75 cents per share, while its $30.30 billion in revenue exceeded analyst expectations of $29.87 billion, according to Refinitiv data obtained by CNBC. Despite this, Comcast stock was down around 1 percent at press time.

The company’s Q2 earnings report in July stated that Peacock had 54 million sign-ups, 20 million of which were monthly active users. Comcast executives did not offer a breakdown on the number of Peacock users who have signed up for the streamer’s paid subscription tiers in prior earnings reports.

Peacock was home to significant exclusive content during the quarter with Tokyo Olympics programming. NBCUniversal had the broadcast rights to the Summer Olympics in the United States and much of Peacock’s early marketing revolved around Olympics content; Peacock’s July 2020 launch was meant to coincide with the Olympics before the sporting event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership for the games was down 42 percent compared to the 2016 Olympics. While part of the decline was likely due to event limitations imposed by the coronavirus, entertainment critics were split on how effectively Peacock marketed the Olympics over the summer. IndieWire’s Steve Greene noted that it was difficult to find Olympics content on Peacock during the event compared to other platforms. Regardless, Comcast credited the event for its 73 percent increase in advertising revenue and stated that it generated $1.8 billion in revenue via broadcasting the Olympics.

Peacock is one of the few major streaming services that offer live news and sports coverage. NBCUniversal has marketed that programming as a key selling point for the streamer, which allows Peacock Premium subscribers to watch every Sunday Night Football game of the season, including the upcoming Super Bowl LVI.

Shell noted that Peacock’s slate of original content has been hampered by coronavirus-related production issues but said the streamer’s library of original programming is expected to improve in the future. Notable original programming that premiered during the quarter includes the “Dr. Death” crime drama miniseries, mystery series “The Lost Symbol,” and concert film “Miley Cyrus Presents Stand By You.”

Comcast executives also noted that the day-and-date release of “Halloween Kills” on October 15 was the “number one non-live event premiere in Peacock’s history.” Though specific viewership numbers for the film were not provided, Peacock users are required to subscribe to the streamer’s premium tiers to view the film, which likely helped boost platform subscriptions.

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