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Peacock Plans to End Free Peacock Premium for Xfinity Customers ‘At Some Point’

Matt Tamanini

Despite the fact that very few people seem to know exactly what content lives on Peacock or even whether or not they have access to it, the NBCUniversal streaming service added 4 million paid subscribers in the first quarter of this year to up their total to 13 million paid users and 28 million total active users. However, that number is likely going to change — potentially significantly — following an announcement made on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell attempted to put some favorable context on the streamer’s paid subscriber number.

“It’s also important to remember that 13 million paying subs comes from only a portion of the country
because in Comcast territory, Comcast homes who get Xfinity, get Peacock Premium for free,” he said. “At some point, we’ll roll that to pay.”

At the end of 2021, Comcast reported 18.18 million cable customers nationwide, meaning that the total number of consuemrs with access to Peacock Premium was much higher than just those that pay for it directly. However, since Xfinity customers have the option to upgrade their free access to Peacock Premium Plus — which includes access to all of the content on the Premium plan, but without commercials — there is a certain number of cable customers that are also likely being counted as part of the paid subscriber total, but how many has never been made publicly available.

While Shell did indicate that the change was coming, he made clear that it likely wasn’t going to happen in the short term, however, that eventuality does color how you should look at the subscriber totals.

“Right now, it’s a benefit to our Comcast ecosystem,” he said. “And so the 13 million doesn’t represent a fair kind of representation when we have millions of people in Comcast homes getting it for free using the content, which we like, by the way.”

While Shell and NBCU seem to be spinning this fact as a potentially beneficial situation for Comcast — based on the hopes that Xfinity subscribers will opt to pay for the Peacock Premium content when it is no longer available for free — it is probably even more likely that by dropping the free, ad-supported add-on from cable bundles, the company could miss out on ad revenue generated from viewers willing to watch for free, but who have no interest in paying for the streamer’s library and also-ran original programming.

Currently, Xfinity X1 internet and Flex cable subscribers receive Peacock Premium, which normally costs $4.99 per month, for free. They can also upgrade to the add-free Plus package for an additional $5.

At the conference, Shell also touted the streamer's unusual multi-channel revenue model that not only includes both ad-supported and premium subscription options, but also one that includes an expansion of its streaming hardware and software businesses.

“We clearly picked the right business model for Peacock, the ad-supported model, which I think we took a lot of heat on when we chose it,” Shell said, “but now everybody is kind of diving into the pool with us,” clearly referencing Netflix and Disney+ announcing the introduction of ad-supported tiers later this year.

So, whenever NBCU decides to discontinue the free Peacock Premium promotion, it will undoubtedly result in a decline in the service’s total number of active users, but how it impacts the streamer’s revenue is yet to be seen. Comcast executives have publicly maintained full faith and enthusiasm for Peacock’s strategy thus far, even if it has yet to catch on with — or even make sense to — the public at large.

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. Starting Nov. 30, Premium Plus subscribers will be able to 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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