Internal financial documents from Comcast and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service reveals that the 10-month-old platform is not as popular as believed by outsiders.
The data reviewed by The Information shows that while Peacock has 33 million subscribers, only around 11.3 million actively viewing households.
NBCU has been looking for ways to grow the under-performing streaming platform without spending too much money, and the WWE Network deal is a part of those efforts. As we’ve noted, the Peacock will become the exclusive home of the WWE Network in the United States beginning Thursday, March 18.
It was reported by The Wall Street Journal in late January, when WWE and NBCU announced the deal, that the WWE Network – Peacock deal runs for 5 years and is valued at more than $1 billion. These details were never confirmed as WWE and NBCU did not officially disclose terms of the multi-year agreement.
The report on the internal documents did not specify how many households are paying for Peacock, but only around 4% of the 33 million subscribers are paying the full $9.99 per month. Peacock is also offered as a free ad-supported version, and a $4.99 per month version that is partly ad-supported. The $9.99 version has no commercials.
This data means Peacock is reliant on the ad market to generate revenue for streaming, where it’s competing with platforms like YouTube and TV networks, while competitors such as Disney Plus, Netflix and HBO Max are all ad-free and rely on their subscribers. That reflects NBCU’s original strategy with Peacock, which was to treat it almost like a standard TV network. Marketing for Peacock has still focused on the free tier instead of the expensive subscription option.
While the number of 33 million sign-ups has been well-received by Comcast investors, NBCU executives acknowledge that just 11.3 million actual active users is not nearly enough. NBCU wants to grow Peacock but their hands are tied corporately as Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh told investment analysts during the Q4 earnings call that Peacock will only lose around $2 billion between 2020 and 2021. This is compared to the $3.3 billion that Disney is spending on their Disney Plus service, which has 87 million subscribers worldwide.
A merger between NBCU and WarnerMedia has been suggested by LightShed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield. This would be interesting to the pro wrestling world as WarnerMedia owns TNT, which is AEW’s main partner. NBCU owns Peacock, which is about to become the new home of the WWE Network in the United States, but they also own the USA Network, which airs WWE NXT and WWE RAW.
The NBCU – WarnerMedia merger was suggested with the idea that they both lack the scale to compete in the streaming age of media, according to NextTV. In the chase to catch up with Netflix and their 203 million worldwide subscribers, Disney Plus is leading the other platforms with their 87 million worldwide subscribers. Peacock has their 33 million subscribers, while WarnerMedia’s HBO Max has just over 17.1 million subscribers. HBO Max launched concurrently with Peacock last year.
Furthermore, before becoming NBCU CEO in early 2020, Jeff Shell reportedly said the only way NBCU could get the scale it needs was through a merger with WarnerMedia.
Regarding the efforts to grow Peacock, NBCU is reportedly seeking bundled offerings. They have approached ViacomCBS about possibly bundling its Paramount Plus streaming platform with Peacock, either domestically or abroad, or both. ViacomCBS is reportedly interested in an overseas tie-up.
The report touted NBCU’s programming partnerships with WWE and the A&A Networks. It was noted that there seems to be a sense of urgency to make something bigger happen soon with Peacock. Comcast CFO Cavanagh indicated during the recent Q4 call 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.
NBCU’s CEO Shell, for a long time, has reportedly felt like NBCU should focus on building the pricier subscription tier of Peacock’s business, but to draw paying users they need more original programs. This is where WWE and other partners come in. NBCU has opted to show more programming from other companies on Peacock, instead of putting large amounts of money into making its own shows. Licensing an existing show or brand, like WWE, with a proven audience is a more cost-effective way of investing in programming, instead of spending a lot of money on original shows that may not be successful.
WWE executives noted during their recent Q4 earnings call that there would not be any kind of price upcharge for events or special programming on Peacock. They also said they feel like the Peacock partnership was the right move at the time for fans and shareholders. WWE executives also touted how the Peacock deal will give them greater access to NBCU’s best-in-class teams across sales, marketing and promotions, and access to some of NBCU’s most iconic franchises.
WWE President & Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan also stated that WWE is focused on helping Peacock grow their subscriber base, and are confident they can do that.
Stay tuned for more.