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NBCUniversal CEO: Peacock Up to 15 Million Subscribers; Provides Updates on Theatrical Windowing, Hulu Sale

David Satin

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell appeared on CNBC this morning, and provided some juicy tidbits about the company’s future and the status of its streaming platform Peacock.

Watch the full interview from CNBC:

Shell told CNBC reporter David Faber that Peacock saw a boost in subscriber numbers in the third quarter of the year, climbing to 15 million paid subscribers now signed up. That’s an uptick of 2 million over Q2, when Peacock’s subscription number of 13 million showed no growth from Q1. However, even with the gains, the service falls far behind its streaming competitors.

At the end of the second quarter, Netflix reported having 220.67 million subscribers, keeping it far and away the largest subscription streaming service in the world. Disney+ reported having 152.1M subscribers and Hulu had 46.2M across its on-demand and live TV platforms. Following the second quarter, Paramount+ reported having 43M global subscribers thanks to an increase of 5.2M (before the removal of the platform in Russia). Neither Prime Video nor Apple TV+ report subscriber totals.

However, for Peacock, subscriber numbers aren't the only metric of importance, but any growth is good news for the service; but how good remains to be seen. NBCU is the first media company to release its Q3 subscriber numbers, and once more companies do so it will be easier to judge Peacock’s success against platforms that have released major tentpole shows in the past three months, like HBO Max’s “House of the Dragon” or Prime Video’s “The Rings of Power.”

One factor that could be giving Peacock a bump is the return of “Sunday Night Football.” The weekly NFL game has been the most-watched primetime television show for the past 11 straight years, and Peacock Premium users can stream every Sunday night contest. In his interview with CNBC, Shell touted the live sports portfolio of Peacock, which he said was better than ESPN+. In addition to “SNF,” Peacock offers select MLB games, WWE wrestling, Notre Dame football, Premier League soccer, and more.

Shell also spoke about the idea that NBC may cut an hour of primetime programming from its lineup. Shell stressed that no final decisions have been made regarding cutting the 10 p.m timeslot on weeknights, but did say the company is “looking to reallocate resources.”

The CEO also dug into the company’s policies regarding theatrical windowing for its films.

“We have the best studios, therefore we’re going to have the best film product of any streamer,” Shell said. “For me, most movies feel like movies when they get a big, robust theatrical launch and then end up on Peacock a short time afterwards. That’s what makes them movies as opposed to just a long TV show.”

Shell noted that occasional exceptions like “Halloween Ends” will still occur, but they’ll be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, Shell spoke again on Disney’s expected acquisition of Comcast’s stake in Hulu in 2024. Shell echoed comments made by Brian Roberts, the CEO of NBCU’s parent company Comcast, that if the 33% stake in Hulu were put up for auction, it would command a high price, and that Comcast expects to be compensated handsomely by Disney since it doesn’t have the option to keep the Hulu stake.

“We, like a lot of other people, would want to own Hulu. That’s not what we anticipate happening, but it’s a pretty valuable asset,” Shell said.

Peacock

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 “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.

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