Peacock stable as Comcast sweats on stalled broadband growth and churn at Sky

NBCUniversal-owned streaming service Peacock saw its paid subscriber numbers stall at around 13 million in the second quarter of this year, while parent company Comcast also failed to add domestic broadband customers for the first time in its history.

Losses at the streamer also rose to $467m during the period – compared to $363m in the previous year – with Comcast expecting continued financial loss over the rest of the fiscal year.

Comcast said that the lack of growth was due to the four million paid subs that Peacock picked up in the previous quarter, with viewers signing up to watch sporting events such as the Super Bowl and Beijing Winter Olympics.

Speaking on an investor call following its Q2 earnings report, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said that AVOD/SVOD hybrid Peacock currently has around 27 million monthly active accounts, down by one million in the previous quarter.

Execs are also bracing for a total annual Peacock-related loss of around $2.5bn as the streamer ups its content investment. Recent originals have included the Queer As Folk and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboots, comedy Killing It and miniseries Angelyne, while this week saw the streamer commission gladiatorial epic Those About To Die from Roland Emmerich.

“We had the benefit of studying the market before we came in and we think we picked the right business strategy, which is kind of an extension of our existing business, not a new business, but based on a dual revenue stream of subscription and advertising,” said NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, defending the dual AVOD/SVOD model on the call.

“I think everybody kind of moving in that direction is a validation of that business model. As far as advertising in general, our business, linear and Peacock, we’re one of the largest advertisers out there with over $10bn advertising. So people coming in at the levels they are coming in, we don’t expect it to have any material impact on what we sell and how we do it. If anything, our scale gives us an increasing advantage.”

NBCUniversal also reported a 33% rise in revenue from its studio to $3bn in the second quarter, which it ascribed as largely down to the theatrical performance of titles such as Jurassic World: Dominion.

Broadband bother

While Peacock is in its relative infancy compared to Comcast and NBCU’s other areas of business, more worrying for the operator is its lack of growth in broadband.

For the first time in the telco’s history, Comcast’s Xfinity brand failed to gain broadband subscribers in a shock move after years of solid growth. The operator said that it had 32.16 million broadband subscribers, the same figure as it reported at the end of Q1. Comcast has added at least 100,00 new broadband subscribers every quarter for the past 20 years, save for Q2 2009 when it only added 65,000 during the height of the financial crisis.

Comcast attributed this halted progress to a combination of economic difficulties and increased competition in the market, with Comcast Cable CEO and president Dave Watson conceding “There’s no question that there’s some competitive pressure.”

Across the Atlantic in Europe, Sky experienced record churn as it lost a cumulative 255,000 customers during Q2. This largely came in Italy where the group is still reeling from the loss of Serie A rights to DAZN.

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