Comcast’s Peacock direct-to-consumer service has had 26 million people sign up, more than the 20 to 21 million when the company reported at the end of the third quarter, according to Jeff Shell, CEO of Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit.
“The momentum just continues in a very strong linear way,” said Shell, speaking at the UBS media investor conference Tuesday. That growth is coming without much of its original programming, delayed by the pandemic, or the Olympics which was postponed by the Coronavirus.
“We get The Office on Jan. 1, which is one of Netflix’ top shows,” he said. “If you try to watch The Office on Netflix right now, it’s pretty hard to find.”
Ad demand for Peacock is strong, he added. Peacock sold a large share of its inventory to charter advertisers, so it’s hard to judge, but “it’s already having an impact [on NBCU’s overall ad revenue] and given its success on signups and engagement, I think it going to continue have a growing impact.”
The overall ad market is also hot, but that’s as much because of a shortage or ratings points because of the lack of new programs as it is because advertisers are becoming more optimistic about the economy.
Demand is particularly strong for big events, including sports. “We actually have more revenue in the door now for the Olympics in ‘21 than we had at this point for the Olympics in ‘20,” Shell said. “We had a pandemic and we actually have more revenue.”
In early 2022 NBCU will have another Olympics and the Super Bowl. “If you’re an advertiser and you want to have reach, I don't think there's a better place to advertise than in the Olympics and the NFL,” he said.
Shell said that NBCU had about 30 shows in production around the world and that employing COVID protocol was increasing the cost of a show by about 10% to 20%. He added that he expects that premium to come down over time, especially once there’s a vaccine.
Shell said NBCU planned to boost its content spending to field Peacko and some of its other networks. But he said that the cost savings resulting from recent restructuring and layoffs will offset some of the increased spending.
In terms of its theatrical movies, Shell said NBCU hasn’t gone as far as AT&T’s WarnerMedia by putting all of its films this year both in theaters and simultaneously on its HBO Max streaming platform.
“I think theatrical is a critical part of the movie business. What makes movies movies is they are events and what makes an event is that you can actually get in your car and drive somewhere and watch something on a big screen,” he said. “But there is also going to be a growing segment of the population that want to watch movies at home.”
The industry has been leaving a lot of money on the table by not serving those consumers, Shell said.
“Anything that in my opinion collapses windows, I think is going to add value to the whole business,” he said.
And when the pandemic is over, he thinks it's going to be like the roaring 20s, with people wanting to get out of their homes to restaurants, theaters, concerts and theme parks, Shell said.
“You’re not going to want to be at home at least for a period of time. The idea of sitting in your apartment on a Friday night watching Netflix is going to be less appealing,” he said.
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