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NBCUniversal, Comcast’s entertainment arm, talked Peacock on Wednesday as the media giant looks to its streaming service to offset continuing declines in its linear cable and pay TV businesses.
On a morning analyst call following the release of Comcast’s third-quarter financial results, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, asked about the latest strategic focus for Peacock, talked about investing in the streaming platform for scale in order to better monetize film and TV content overall.
Peacock paid subscribers in the U.S. “surpassed 15 million” as of the end of September, as NBCUniversal took an adjusted EBITDA loss of $614 million related to the streaming service.
“We want to get Peacock to a scale where we’re fairly indifferent between content going on linear and content going on Peacock and having the best platform out there, and we think we’re well on our way to that,” Shell told analysts. He added NBCUniversal was primarily a content business, and engaging and retaining consumers in a fast-changing environment called for adding to existing platforms for reach.
“If you have a great content business, the way you maximize your returns is having platforms where you can have the flexibility to put your content on your own platforms and move it around to give your content the best chance of success and we’ve had that over the years,” Shell argued.
Comcast and NBCUniversal execs were addressing Peacock and its future amid questions from analysts over how the streaming platform could continue to drive further growth in paid subscribers, while also looking toward breaking even and eventual profitability.
Studio execs know they came late to the streaming arena with Peacock, given its size compared to Netflix (223 million global subscribers) and Disney+ (152 million subs), which has hampered subscriber and signup growth. But, at least for now, Comcast and NBCUniversal execs signaled they’re continuing to lean into Peacock, even as their overall media business faces headwinds.
On the analyst call, NBCU leaders acknowledged potential recessionary and inflation pressures on consumer spending in the U.S. market, with the canary in the coalmine potentially being Comcast taking a noncash impairment charge of $8.6 billion for its U.K.-based Sky business, which it acquired in 2018 for $39 billion.
“All of us are paying attention to economics and other expert views about how some of these issues in Europe may come to the U.S. And while we’re not immune to potential macro headwinds, I firmly believe Comcast is in a very strong position relative to our peers, and most other companies. We are a leader in very large and highly profitable markets, and our healthy balance sheet and substantial free cash flow generation enable us to continue to invest organically in our strategic initiatives, while simultaneously returning a substantial amount of capital to our shareholders,” Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told analysts.
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