Comcast-owned NBCUniversal’s ad-supported streaming service Peacock hit 54 million subscribers and more than 20 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2021.
During the company’s Q2 earnings call Thursday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the number of subscribers grew 50% over 90 days, driven in large part by the Olympics, the release of “The Boss Baby 2” and the debut of “Dr. Death.”
Peacock ended Q1 in April with 42 million subscribers, thanks in large part to the popularity of "The Office," which hit the streaming platform in January.
The company did not break down the number of subscribers that have signed up for Peacock’s free ad-supported tier or its premium streaming service.
Comcast beat earnings expectations. On the cable side, Comcast saw the total number of customer relationships (across internet and video) increase 5.2% to nearly 34 million. But cord-cutting continues: Comcast’s residential video customers declined 2% to 178.2 million.
NBCU’s media revenue increased 25.7% to $5.1 billion, and ad revenue jumped 33% due to the return of live sports and the launch of Peacock.
Peacock’s debut was initially set to coincide with the 2020 Olympic Games when it launched a year ago, and NBCU has also experienced some “bad luck” during this year’s summer games, mainly low linear ratings and a spike in COVID-19 cases in Tokyo.
Still, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said that despite those setbacks, the Olympics is expected to be profitable. NBC Sports Digital – which includes Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app – experienced its second-largest primetime Olympics streaming viewership on Saturday, with an average audience of 636,000 viewers.
“We had a little bit of bad luck – there was a drumbeat of negativity, we got moved the year, and [we had] no spectators,” Shell said. “That has resulted a little bit in linear ratings being less than we expected. But the flip side of that is the digital strength has kind of offset that, with what’s happening with Peacock that’s directly related to the Olympics.”
Shell noted NBCU’s “red hot” upfront deals in Q2 will fuel Peacock’s growth. “We’re particularly happy with both the volume and CPMs on Peacock,” Shell said, adding that the platform experienced double-digit increases.
Plus, Peacock struck agreements with Amazon and Samsung to bring Peacock to Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs, respectively. “We're now fully distributed for Peacock and that's going to benefit the rollout of our additional content. We’re much further ahead than we expected to be at this point.”
NBCU invested heavily in Peacock. The rise in subscribers comes even as the streaming service experienced a $363 million loss related to programming costs.
“We'll probably ramp up our investment modestly over what we've done in the past, but with so much content coming to Peacock, it doesn't have to be significant,” Shell said.
Shell said that NBCU’s One Platform – launched last year to let advertisers buy, measure and optimize their campaigns across NBCU’s linear and digital assets – played a large role in securing big upfront deals. Roberts added that the strategy for Peacock includes creating more digital inventory.
“That’s the holy grail of ads, that’s how we’re able to get a premium,” Roberts said. “We’re reimagining how people consume. That consumption is enabled by broadband and now enabled by Peacock.”
Comcast has big plans for Peacock internationally, and announced that the streaming service would be made available free to 20 million Sky TV customers in Europe later this year to “unlock incremental advertising revenue,” Roberts said.
Comcast has also expanded its investment in its Xfinity Flex TV streaming devices, which allow broadband customers to connect to streaming services. Xfinity with X1 and Flex have been key to driving more subscribers on Peacock.
“We see a similar opportunity with Sky,” Roberts said. “We look forward to finalizing agreements with other programming and distribution partners outside of our Sky markets.”
Sky lost 248,000 customer relationships to end Q2 with a total of 23.3 million, mainly due to the end of the soccer season in Italy and Germany.
Comcast was reportedly eyeing a partnership with ViacomCBS to bolster their respective streaming platforms overseas, coming at a time of large media M&A deals, such as WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery and Amazon’s proposed buy of MGM Studios.
But Roberts said that while the company might consider potential partnerships to “enhance its streaming position” internationally, Comcast was capable of scaling Peacock on its own.
“We don't need M&A,” Roberts told investors.
Comcast’s revenue increased 20% to $28.5 billion, while net income rose 25% to $3.7 billion. Advertising revenue, excluding political, jumped nearly 60% to $679 million.