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Parent company Comcast reported NBCUniversal’s Q1 2022 earnings on Thursday, noting its newer streaming service, Peacock, ended the first quarter of 2022 with 28 million monthly active accounts, up from the 24.5 million Comcast reported for the platform at the end of 2021. Of those, 13 million are paying customers, up from 9 million in the prior quarter, up 44%.
"We added 4 million paid subscribers to end the first quarter … We've seen a 25% increase in hours of engagement year over year," Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts said. "Given the natural ebbs and flows of our content slate, we do not anticipate seeing this type of growth every quarter.
"We expect more modest subscriber gains until we get to the back half of this year. Our fourth quarter should be fantastic, with sporting events such as Sunday Night Football, Premier League and the World Cup," he added.
While Comcast executives do not anticipate growth to increase at a fast rate, the final quarter of 2022 will be another substantial period for the streaming service since the fledgling service will become the hub of 18 MLB games in May. Also, NBC shows will move from Hulu to Peacock, becoming the new exclusive streaming home this Fall.
In comparison, Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter. For a veteran streaming platform to suffer such a loss when a younger competitor rises in popularity is highly notable. Due to live sporting events, Peacock and other streamers capture the attention of sports fans. If Netflix continues to ignore this strategy, subscription numbers will most likely continue to stall.
Last quarter, NBCU revealed that Peacock ended 2021 with 9 million paid subscribers. During the Q4 Comcast earnings call this past January, Roberts said that, at that time, many of Peacock’s 24.5 million monthly active accounts were choosing to subscribe to the $5 ad-supported tier over the $10 ad-free tier.
Comcast research showed that 80% of consumers prefer an ad-supported service rather than paying a higher cost for no ads. Almost all the major streaming services have explored the possibility of ad-supported subscription plans -- most recent streamers being Netflix and Disney+. Ever since Peacock included this cheaper offering, it has seen more growth.
NBCUniversal’s EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) rose 7.4% to $1.6 billion. Despite this, the Peacock losses were $456 million on revenues of $472 million. In comparison, there was a $277 million loss a year ago on revenues of $91 million.
Peacock’s operating loss for the quarter was a result of the higher programming and production costs associated with the Super Bowl and the Olympics, as well as the return of its primetime schedule, Comcast said. The Super Bowl and Olympics generated big revenue numbers, bringing in $519 million and $963 million, respectively.
“Our media business is performing well, and the scale of our reach is underscored by our successful broadcast of the Super Bowl and the Olympics in the same week. These events were viewed by more than 200 million people in the U.S. across NBCUniversal’s platforms, including Peacock,” Roberts said.
During Thursday’s Q1 investor’s call, Michael Cavanagh, chief financial officer of Comcast, remarked, “We continue to expect Peacock’s EBITA loss will be roughly $2.5 billion for the year. However, taking into consideration the timing of content launches … We would expect losses to be higher in the second half of the year.”
In other news, cable giants Comcast and Charter announced yesterday that they would team up to build a streaming platform. The Charter venture “demonstrates the benefits of our focus on innovation and enables us to bring entertainment aggregation and streaming products that run off our global technology platform to millions more customers,” said Roberts.