NBCU Chief Jeff Shell put the numbers into more context when asked on a conference call with Wall Street analysts to define ‘enrollments’, as opposed to active accounts or active users . On its Investor Day last January, the NBCU forecast to have around 30-35 million monthly active accounts by 2024.
“It’s confusing because it’s different in the ad-supported world than it is in the SVOD world,” Shell conceded. Since Peacock saw its nationwide expansion on July 15 after a first run on Comcast platforms, “it’s too early to convert” the enrollment number to monthly active accounts, he said, “but overall we are better than expected. We weren’t expecting so many registrations. We didn’t expect people to come back as often as they come back and we didn’t expect people to watch as long as they watch when they come back.
Comcast tops Wall Street second quarter estimates, but NBCUniversal ad revenue drops 27%
CFO Michael Cavanagh added: “We are encouraged by the number of people we have to try or taste Peacock.” CEO Brian Roberts, linking other themes from the quarter, said that Peacock, Xfinity Flex, premium on-demand movie offerings and other companies show how Comcast is “leaning into streaming.”
An illustration of the new direction can be found in the corporate structure of NBCU’s TV group. Under Mark Lazarus, who took on a new role in television and streaming in May, the organization will soon get a new structure reflecting a focus on streaming soon, Shell said, although he did not reveal any details.
Lazarus is “finalizing a new structure,” said Shell, which will shift resources to streaming and move away from traditional television operations. Turning to the broader operating environment, Shell said crises like COVID-19 “tend to accelerate and exacerbate trends, and this is certainly true in the television industry.”
It’s virtually impossible to come up with apple-to-apple comparisons between Peacock and other streaming newcomers. When Disney launched Disney + last November, it drew 10 million registrations in 24 hours. In early May, it had 54.5 million subscribers worldwide. But its offer is more slender than that of Peacock and it is ad-free.
HBO Max, meanwhile, has reported 4.1 million new subscribers since its launch on May 27, in addition to current HBO subscribers who accessed the service, with WarnerMedia not disclosing total active users. Netflix’s longtime linchpin leads the way with 193 million subscribers worldwide.
Ahead of the call, Comcast reported quarterly financial results that exceeded analysts’ expectations, but NBCU was hit by a 27% drop in advertising revenue.
In a note to clients after the earnings call, MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said the numbers “don’t change the story.” The analyst maintains a “buy” rating on Comcast shares, but mainly because of its strong broadband and pay-TV business. “NBCU is doing very badly,” Moffett wrote, “although the losses were not as dire as some might have feared. The NBCU will continue to hurt badly until there’s a vaccine… and cable network business, in particular, might not get much better even when it does.