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Peacock Expenses Drag Down 4Q Profits at NBCUniversal

NBCUniversal Peacock
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal reported lower fourth-quarter profits as it poured money into its Peacock streaming service.

According to parent company Comcast’s earnings report, Peacock lost $559 million on revenue of $335 million in the quarter. A year ago, Peacock had revenue of $71 million and lost $254 million.

Peacock’s operations are part of NBCU’s media group under the company’s new financial reporting structure. The company did not report how many subscribers or signups Peacock had in the quarter.

On Comcast's earnings call, CEO Brian Roberts said Peacock finished the year with 24.5 million active accounts, which is about 75% of the companies expectations for 2024. The company said it spent $1.5 billion on programming for Peacock and planned to double that to $3 billion in 2022.

Also: Has Peacock Found Momentum? It Was No. 2 in Signups for Q4

For NBCU, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 6.8% to $1.28 billion. The company said operating expenses rose, driven by higher programming and production expenses, particularly at Peacock. Sports costs were also up.  

Revenue rose 25.6% to $9.3 billion. Distribution revenue increased 11.6% on rate increases for NBCU’s TV stations and cable networks and increases at Peacock. Ad revenue was up 6%, with additional sales at Peacock offsetting lower ratings and less political spending. 

EBITDA for NBCU’s media business was down 49.4% to $721 million as revenues rose $8.4% to $6.8 billion. 

NBCU’s studios unit’s earnings were down 33.8% to $51 million, as revenue rose 36.4%. 

Theme park profits jumped to $674 million from just $3 million during the recession. Revenue rose 191.3%% to $1.9 billion.

Overall, Comcast’s net income fell 9.5% to $3.05 billion, or 66 cents a share, from $3.38 billion, or 73 cents a share a year ago. 

Revenue rose 9.5% to $30.3 billion.

The financial results were above Wall Street expectations.

EBITA for Comcast’s cable division rose 7.8% and it added 169,000 customers. In broadband, it added 212,000 customers. Broadband revenue was up 8.5% to $5.9 billion. Video revenue fell 6.2% to $5.4 billion as residential video subscribers fell by 349,000 to 17.5 million.

Comcast increased its dividend by 8% to $1.08 a share on an annualized basis and resumed its share repurchase program.

“Comcast’s strong operating and financial performance in 2021 was underscored by our highest full-year revenue, adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EPS, and free cash flow on record. We continue to execute  extraordinarily well, strengthening our leadership position in connectivity, aggregation, and streaming, while working to have a lasting impact on our communities through our commitment to DE&I and digital equity,” said CEO Brian Roberts.

“Looking ahead, we remain focused on our many exciting organic growth opportunities across all of our businesses. Our top priority is increasing the capacity of our network in the U.S. and further improving our world-class broadband experience. We are producing more of the premium content that our viewers love and continue to provide them with multiple ways to access it, including on Peacock while ramping construction of Epic Universe and welcoming even more guests to our Theme Parks,” Roberts said. “And, significantly, we are expanding the reach of our proprietary global technology platform and  addressable customer base, starting with Sky Glass and XClass TV. Our confidence in the future is reflected in today’s announcement that we are increasing the dividend for the 14th consecutive year."■

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.