In Comcast’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings report, NBCUniversal-owned Peacock put up some impressive numbers for the fledgling streaming service. In 2022, Peacock more than doubled its paid streaming subscribers, growing to more than 20 million by year-end. By comparison, Netflix has 230.75 million total paid subscriptions at year end; Disney+ reported 164.2 million global subscribers in November 2022; and Warner Bros. Discovery reported 94.9 million direct-to-consumer subscribers from HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+ as of September 30, 2022.
Also, Peacock’s streaming revenue tripled to nearly $2.1 billion. Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, commented on the company’s full-year results.
“We achieved these results while continuing to invest in broadband, our 10G network evolution, Xfinity Mobile, Peacock, and theme parks, and we also took cost actions to further our growth in the future,” said Roberts said in a January 26, 2023 news release.
“We are excited to begin the new year as an innovative leader in large profitable markets with a strong balance sheet and a strategy to drive incremental returns and bring outstanding content and experiences to our customers. The Board’s confidence in our position and path forward is underscored by today’s announcement that we are increasing our dividend for the 15th consecutive year,” Roberts added.
Fourth-quarter 2022 highlights
Comcast provided the following highlights for the fourth quarter of 2022:
- Adjusted net income for the quarter was $3.5 billion, down 0.4% year-over-year.
- Adjusted EBITDA was $8.0 billion, down 4.9% year-over-year.
- Adjusted earnings per share were $0.82, a 6.5% increase over Q4 2021.
- NBCUniversal’s adjusted EBITDA reflected higher Peacock losses and $182 million severance-related expenses.
- Peacock had paid subscriber net additions in the U.S. of 5 million, driven by live sports (e.g., World Cup, NFL, Premier League), recent films (Jurassic, Minions, Halloween) and Peacock originals.
- This was the best quarter for growth of paid streaming subscribers since the service launched in April 2020.
- NBCUniversal was the number two studio in terms of worldwide box office in 2022.
- Peacock’s advertising revenue contributed to a 2.6% increase in total media revenue.
- Operating expenses increased which included higher costs for Peacock.
- Adjusted EBITDA loss attributed to Peacock was $978 million, compared to a loss of $559 million in the prior year period. This loss was due to the cost of new content, exclusive next-day broadcast and Bravo content, Pay-One titles, day and date releases like Halloween, NFL, Premier League and the World Cup.
Full-year 2022 highlights
Comcast reported the following highlights for the full year 2022:
- The company had total revenue of $121.4 billion, a 4.3% increase over 2021.
- Adjusted net income for the year was $16.1 billion, a 7.3% increase over 2021.
- Adjusted EBITDA was $36.5 billion, up 5% over 2021.
- Adjusted earnings per share were $3.64, a 12.7% increase over 2021.
- Adjusted EBITDA loss attributed to Peacock was $2.5 billion, compared to a loss of $1.7 billion in 2021.
“Looking ahead, and based on our experience to date, we expect our subscriber cadence will follow our content launches, which will fall more in the second half of 23,” Roberts said on the earnings call. “And we continue to see positive trends in engagement, churn and ARPU.”
Roberts estimates that Peacock’s losses for 2023 will be around $3 billion. The company said the $3 billion will be the peak loss point for Peacock, and the losses will steadily improve from there.
Peacock is a premium ad-supported streaming service with subscription tiers.
- Peacock’s Premium tier is $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year for 80,000+ hours of TV, movies and sports, including new and hit shows, films and originals; live sports and events; current NBC and Bravo Shows; and 50+ always-on channels. This tier contains ads.
- Peacock’s Premium Plus tier is $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year. Paid streaming subscribers get all the content of the Premium tier with fewer ads (some are required due to streaming rights). Paid streaming subscribers can also download and watch shows offline, and their local NBC channel is live 24/7.
- Right now Peacock has a limited-time offer for new subscribers – $29.99 for a year.
Comcast and Peacock are experiencing the same things the other streaming subscription services are – the initial investment and cost of content are substantial but necessary. You can’t attract paid streaming subscribers or advertisers without sufficient original and exclusive content. Though Peacock may be seen as a minor player right now, they are growing rapidly and have the resources of Comcast and NBCUniversal at their disposal.
Takeaway for subscription companies: Slow and steady can win the race. Making strategic investments at the right time can yield positive results if you are in it for the long-game. Trying to be the biggest, brightest, shiniest thing doesn’t always work.