Comcast to Start Charging Xfinity Subscribers for Peacock

NBCUniversal Peacock
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

Comcast and NBCUniversal are going to start making Comcast’s Xfinity cable TV subscribers pay for NBCU's Peacock streaming service starting in June.

When Peacock launched, Xfinity subscribers got Peacock's premium version for free. Subscribers are expected to get a notice of the change in this month’s bill. New Xfinity subscribers who didn’t previously subscribe to Peacock will be offered a free trial for six months.

NBCU made a deal with Cox Communications when Peacock launched that gave Cox cable subscribers Peacock for free. That deal is also expiring and Cox customers will be offered a $ 2-per-month discount to sign up for Peacock as a paid service.

Peacock has a free tier in addition to its premium tier, but the free tier is no longer being offered to new customers.

Like other media companies making the expensive pivot to streaming, Comcast and NBCU are looking for ways to staunch the red ink flowing from their direct-to-consumer businesses.

Comcast said Peacock added 5 million paid subscribers, growing to a total of $20 million. But its quarterly losses expanded to $978 million. The company said that Peacock lost $2.5 billion in 2022 and was expected to hit peak losses of $3 billion in 2023.

At an investor meeting in June, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said the company would start to unbundle its cable and streaming services and get more Peacock subscribers to pay.

“As we move to the back half of the year, when all of our programming strength is coming, I think we're pretty optimistic that we’re going to continue to grow paying subs,“ Shell said. ”By the way, it’s also important to remember that 13 million paying subs comes from only a portion of the country because in Comcast territory, Comcast homes who get Xfinity, get Peacock Premium for free. 

“At some point, we'll roll that to pay," Shell said. "But right now, it's a benefit to our Comcast ecosystem. And so the 13 million doesn't represent a fair kind of representation when we have millions of people in Comcast homes getting it for free using the content -- which we like, by the way.”

The programming Shell is speaking of includes reruns of the previous day’s NBC programming, programming from cable networks including Bravo, a growing number of original shows including the buzzy series Poker Face and movies from Comcast’s Universal Studios.

Comcast NBCU has also made deals to get Peacock carried by more distributors. 

In December, DirecTV Stream signed up for Peacock, with subscribers getting $2 off the regular $4.99 a month price for a limited time. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.