Comcast and NBCUniversal’s Peacock only has around 11.3 million households using the streaming service on a regular basis, according to subscription news site The Information, which said it got a first-hand look at some of the 10-month-old platform’s internal financial documents.
The report didn’t specify how many of those households are paying for Peacock, which comes in three iterations: free ad-supported; $4.99 a month and partly ad-supported; and $9.99 with no commercials. But only around 4% of Peacock’s 33 million signups are paying a full $9.99, The Information said.
Although the 33 million signup number, disclosed in late January, had seemingly been well received by Comcast investors, NBCU execs concede that just 11.3 million actual active users is not nearly enough, the report adds.
NBCU wants to grow the service, but it’s hands are tied corporately, with Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh telling investment analysts during the company’s Q4 earnings call that Peacock will only lose around $2 billion between 2020-2021. This is compared to the $3.3 billion Disney is spending on Disney Plus, which has 87 million subscribers worldwide.
Indeed, Disney Plus seems to be running away from the pack in the quest to catch the biggest streaming company of them all, Netflix, with its 203 million global subscribers. NBCU can take some solace in that WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, which launched concurrently with Peacock last year, has just over 17.1 million subscribers to date.
With NBCU and WarnerMedia each generating around $30 billion in annual revenue—about half of what Disney yields—it was proposed by LightShed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield in November that the two somewhat symmetrical media divisions should merge, now that they both lack the scale to compete in the streaming age.
“We believe it is time for both AT&T and Comcast to abandon the fool’s gold of vertical integration of content and distribution and merge NBCUniversal with WarnerMedia,” media analyst Rich Greenfield with LightShed Management wrote.
According to The Information, prior to becoming NBCU CEO in early 2020, Jeff Shell said the only way NBCU could get the scale it needed was through a merger with WarnerMedia.
Short of that, NBCU is said to be seeking bundled offerings, approaching ViacomCBS about combining its Paramount Plus streaming service in a value package for consumers, either domestically or abroad, or both. ViacomCBS indicated potential interest in an overseas tie-up, the report said.
NBCU has, however, been able to forge programming partnerships with WWE and A&E Networks, adding shows from these media companies to Peacock.
There seems to be a sense of urgency to make something bigger happen soon, however. For his part, Cavanagh said something during the Q4 call two weeks back that implied that Comcast might not be so patient with Peacock.
“We’re not going to…commit ourselves to do things for a decade when we might have evidence in a shorter period of time that it falls one way or the other,” he said.
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