Comcast Exec Reaffirms Plan to Make Xfinity Users Pay for Peacock; When Can Users Expect to See Change?
Comcast is the perfect example of a company in transition. One of the biggest providers of pay TV in the country is attempting to plan its next moves as users leave multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs) in droves in favor of ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming platforms.
As part of its numerous media holdings, Comcast owns NBCUniversal and its streaming service Peacock. Peacock has been offered free to customers of Comcast’s Xfinity cable and internet services since the platform launched in 2020, but NBCU CEO Jeff Shell has been signaling since summer that the company plans to change that. Shell reiterated those plans recently at the 2022 UBS Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
“How do we convert [Xfinity users] to paying subs?” he said “We’re looking at it as a total company. We don’t want to just do it from an NBCUniversal perspective. So the question is, how do we do that and when do we do that in a way that adds value to the whole company, and we’re deep in discussions on that. Over the next year or 2, we’ll be probably moving towards that model.”
Peacock doubled its paid subscriber total in 2022, from 9 million to 18 million users, but the service had 30 million total users in the third quarter of 2022, according to Variety, indicating that a very large portion of its total subscriber base is Xfinity customers getting the service for free. With Peacock set to lose $2.4 billion for Comcast in 2022, the company is likely thinking of ways to monetize its Xfinity Peacock users very soon.
Analysts belive that this change will likely come sometime in the next 12 months. That will help Comcast and NBCU digest its 2022 streaming losses more easily, and bring in future revenue for streaming expenditures. It will also help mollify Wall Street, which is no longer interested in simply rewarding streaming services for posting big quarterly subscriber and user gains.
Profitability is the main measure of a streaming service’s success nowadays. This shift in market philosophies has led to well-documented, wide-ranging changes at Warner Bros. Discovery and its streaming services HBO Max and discovery+. Big streaming losses have already led to the ouster of one industry CEO (Disney’s Bob Chapek), and the search for increased profitability has led both Netflix and Disney+ to launch ad-supported streaming tiers.
To be sure, not every Comcast internet and cable subscriber currently getting Peacock for free will stick with the service once they’re asked to pay, but Comcast is doing everything it can to soften the ground for such a change, including offering DIRECTV subscribers the option to sign up to Peacock now for $2.99 per month. The service is also adding more free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels dedicated to popular shows like “Law and Order” and “The Office” to keep customers subscribed.
Whether these efforts will be successful is not yet clear, but Xfinity users should plan for the future now, because by this time next year, it’s likely that they will have to pay to access the Peacock content they are currently getting for free.
Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that includes original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series. Peacock is home to “Yellowstone,” and “The Office,” as well as original hits like “Poker Face” and “Bel-Air.” You can also watch live sports including Sunday Night Football, Premier League, and exclusive MLB games. Peacock is also the exclusive home to many WWE events like WrestleMania. Premium Plus subscribers can stream their local NBC feed in all 210 markets.
Peacock includes news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.
Peacock also includes the entire library of Bravo shows and has exclusives like “Below Deck: Down Under.” They also include live and on-demand access to Hallmark channels.
The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like “Parks and Recreation,” and the entire Dick Wolf library including “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire.”
The service also features blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.