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This is How Comcast Hopes Streamers Will Stem Customer Losses

Comcast is trending down — at least where subscribers are concerned.

It’s taken a hit from cord-cutters, losing 283,000 customers in Q3 and 224,000 in Q2. A year ago, in Q2 2018, it lost 140,000 net video customers.

On the most recent earnings call, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the company is focused on its two streaming services to combat the decline: Flex and Peacock.

Flex, which debuted in March, is free to Comcast’s broadband-only customers. It counts more than 100 video and music services on its platform, such as Netflix, HBO, YouTube and Amazon Music.

Roberts says while Flex, which he called the company’s “fourth pillar,” targets those who only consume video OTT, Peacock, an AVOD (ad-supported video-on-demand service) which launches in April 2020, is available to anyone with a traditional pay TV service.

Combined with its Peacock streamer, Roberts said the strategy shift underscores “our leading scale in distribution and premium content, along with our focus on innovation.”

Cord-cutters will have the option to subscribe to the streaming services separately. It’s expected Peacock will offer a lower-cost, ad-filled subscription or a more expensive ad-free option, presumably at prices similar to what Hulu charges, $5.99-11.99.

In fact, Peacock is seen as Comcast’s fast track to profitability with the least amount of investment. A big draw is inventory, a lure to retain or reclaim customers. Peacock will be the exclusive home for NBCU’s mega hits “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” All content comes from its “existing ecosystem,” including NBC, USA Network, Bravo, Oxygen and Telemundo.

Peacock’s original series will include “Dr. Death,” a drama starring Alec Baldwin based on the true-crime podcast of the same name, and “Brave New World,” an adaptation of the Aldous Huxley novel.

NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke said on the call that Peacock expects to deliver a solid ROI, getting “to cruising altitude much more quickly than a subscription service.”

“We’re going to use the Olympics as sort of an afterburner after our launch, and then we’ll be adding content pretty significantly throughout 2020,” he added.

Still, Comcast is happy to do business with its rivals. Roberts has said Peacock’s launch will not result in a pullback from third-party licensing that has been signaled by Disney and, to a lesser degree, WarnerMedia.