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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Peacock’s Subscriber Surge Driven by Sports: NFL Streaming Plays Key Role

  • Peacock sees a nearly 10% bump in subscribers in the quarter, aided by an exclusive wild-card game.
  • Company officials see a strong interplay between sports and entertainment programming.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

​​Comcast’s Peacock streaming service is still playing catchup compared to many other competing streaming services. But boosted significantly by the NFL, Olympics, and a deep battery of other sports—a programming portfolio that is perhaps poised to grow further—Peacock is making more market gains.

In first-quarter earnings released Thursday, Comcast said that Peacock grew to 34 million subscribers, 9.6% higher than the prior quarter and 41% more than a year ago. Revenue for the streamer grew 54% to $1.1 billion in the latest quarter, while the adjusted loss narrowed by 9% to $639 million. 

A crucial factor in those improved metrics was Peacock’s exclusive stream during the quarter of a wild-card game between the Chiefs and Dolphins, which drew an average audience of 23 million that was the largest online in U.S. history. In the days leading up to that game, Peacock added 2.8 million subscribers, according to Antenna, representing the “single-biggest subscriber acquisition event” measured by the industry research firm. 

As subscriber churn is a significant worry for any streaming service, Comcast executives were enthused that the football-related bump held, and then some, as well as how sports content was interacting with entertainment programming on Peacock to drive subscriber growth and retention. 

“We are at a place now where we really are seeing traction in our approach to providing a service for consumers that is a combination of both entertainment and sports and how those two go together, and it’s very much a reflection, a mirror image, of what we see as our strength at NBCUniversal itself,” said Mike Cavanagh, Comcast president, in an earnings call with analysts.

That NFL-featured strategy will continue, in September, when Peacock will exclusively air a rare Friday game involving the Eagles and Packers in Brazil. Comcast’s NBC Sports, meanwhile, is an active bidder for NBA national rights, and Peacock will factor into that bid, too.

In other key elements from Comcast’s quarterly earnings report:

  • Comcast reiterated that it is on track to sell $1.2 billion in advertising sales commitments for the upcoming Paris Olympics, the most of any such Games ever. 
  • The company is projecting a further boost for Peacock subscribers in the second half of 2024, thanks in large part to sports programming such as the NFL, Olympics, and Big Ten football. 
  • Cord-cutting remains a pressing issue, both for Comcast and across the industry, and the company lost another 487,000 residential cable customers during the quarter, leaving the current total at 13.6 million. 
  • Despite the issues there, Comcast still boosted its overall revenue by 1.2% to $30.1 billion, and net income rose 0.6% to $3.86 billion, with both measures slightly beating analyst expectations. Still, Comcast stock tumbled nearly 6% in Thursday trading. 

“Peacock’s losses remain stubbornly high, in part reflecting the cost of the [NFL] playoff game,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett wrote in a research note, referencing the $110 million price tag Comcast paid. “Peacock is still clearly sub-scale. But Comcast has the balance sheet to wait for the market to come to them. They have the luxury of time.”

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