Peacock Perks Up: Paid Subs Up to Over 15M, Active Users Reach 30M, NBCU Chief Jeff Shell Says

NBCU CEO Jeff Shell
Peacock's stagnant Q2 subscriber growth would put a sour expression on anyone's face. Just ask NBCU CEO Jeff Shell. (Image credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Peacock has had a pretty good last two months, according to Jeff Shell, the CEO of the streaming service’s parent company, NBCUniversal.

Shell told CNBC’s Squawk Box Tuesday morning that paid Peacock subscribers have now surpassed 15 million and active users have reached 30 million. 

This is a significant turn in fortune given that on July 28, NBCU reported stagnated growth for Peacock of 13 million paid customers and 27 million active users. 

“It’s really driven by the content,” Shell told CNBC’s David Faber. 

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In September, Peacock received a major content infusion, with NBCU moving many of its most streamed shows on joint venture Hulu over to its own streaming service. 

“If you want to watch Saturday Night Live, if you want to watch Real Housewives, if you want to watch The Voice, all of our ‘Chicago’ shows, Dick Wolf shows … those are now coming to Peacock,” Shell said. 

The NBCU CEO also cited the draw of Universal Pictures theatrical titles coming to Peacock over the past few months, including the latest “Minions” and “Jurassic Park” movies, as well as Blumhouse-produced horror film The Black Phone, starring Kevin Bacon. 

And Shell cited the contribution of Peacock’s nonlinear sports rights to the NFL and English Premier League, among other sports entities, too.

Meanwhile, after Q2 losses of $467 million for Peacock took a bite out of NBCU’s stock valuation, Shell also put a positive spin on the financials. 

He noted that Peacock ARPU has reached $10 and that total revenue will reach $2 billion this year. 

“I don’t know a lot of businesses that you’ve covered that in two years have reached the point of $2 billion,” Shell said. 

Asked about the fate of the suddenly very-mortal-appearing linear TV business, he remarked: “Linear is still an incredibly important business — an incredibly important business to consumers, incredibly important business to advertisers. Just look at the NFL, you know, which we just renewed last year. Look at the numbers of the NFL or the Olympics.”

Shell also conceded that NBCU is once again pondering the strategy of giving back the 10 p.m. hour to its affiliates. 

“We’re evaluating a lot of things,” he said. “I mean, when you look at the investment in Peacock — as I mentioned most of the investment is for our own programming putting it on Peacock — but if we’re being prudent operators, which we try to be, right, if you’re allocating a bunch of resources to one part of the business, you have to look at the allocation of resources to another’s. I don’t think we’re ready to make any decision on 10 o’clock or anything else.

“We have a lot of great shows at 10 o’clock,” Shell added. “We make a lot of money at 10 o’clock. We still have a lot of viewers at 10 o’clock. There’s no question throughout the day as linear declines, you’re going to have to make some trade-offs and we’ll be looking at that as our investors would want us to look at.”

Finally, asked about the pending negotiations between NBCU and The Walt Disney Co. over the former’s 30% stake in Hulu, Shell painted NBCU as a seller interested in driving up the price of the asset. 

“It’s a great asset,” he said. “If it was put on the auction block, it would fetch a high price, it would be a pretty robust auction. We would want to participate in the auction; we, like a lot of other people, would want to own Hulu.” ▪️ 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!