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Peacock booked a loss of more than $700 million in the first quarter of this year, as the NBCUniversal streaming service struggles to grow its subscriber base, the company announced Thursday.
The loss, published as part of Q1 results from NBCU parent company Comcast, also showed Peacock subscriber figures hit nearly 22 million in the first three months of 2023, up 60 percent year-on-year. Revenues for the streamer came in at $685 million, below the adjusted EBITIDA loss of $704 million for the platform. The entertainment conglomerate reiterated “peak losses” at around $3 billion for Peacock this year.
Overall, revenues at Comcast’s content and experiences division, comprising NBCUniversal’s TV and streaming business, international networks and Sky Sports channels, and the film studios and theme parks, fell 9.5 percent to $10.2 billion, while the adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were flat, off 1 percent to $1.6 billion.
The NBCUniversal studio division posted an EBITDA up 13 percent to $277 million and a 1.7 percent revenue uptick to $2.95 billion.
NBCU’s media unit results included $6.1 billion of revenue, falling 21 percent from a year earlier, a drop attributed to lower ad sales (last year’s results included ad sales for NBC’s Super Bowl and Beijing Olympics coverage), with an adjusted EBITDA profit of $880 million, a 25 percent year-on-year decline.
Domestic advertising at the media unit fell 39 percent to $2.02 billion, with domestic distribution revenues off 7.8 percent to $2.7 billion. Last year, NBCU nabbed around $1.5 billion in revenue from the Beijing Olympics and the NFL’s Super Bowl in the first quarter.
Losses for Peacock widened to an adjusted EBITIDA of $704 million, on revenues of $685 million, compares with a year-earlier adjusted EBITIDA of $456 million on revenues of $472 million.
Comcast posted overall revenue at $29.6 billion, down 4.3 percent from a year-earlier $31 billion. The entertainment conglomerate managed to boost its overall earnings to $3.83 billion, from $3.55 billion in Q1 2022, with adjusted earnings-per-share up 7 percent to 92 cents, results that surpassed analyst expectations.
Executives of the media, entertainment, and technology conglomerate, led by Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, held an analyst call ahead of the Wall Street market opening. Top of the agenda: Monday’s shock firing of NBCU CEO Jeff Shell, who was fired with cause over an harassment claim.
Roberts wasn’t long on the morning call before addressing the surprise Shell exit: “Let me just acknowledge the news that you all saw earlier this week. Obviously a tough moment,” he said at the beginning of his prepared remarks, before citing a deep bench strength of executives at NBCUniversal.
On April 23, Comcast said Shell was abruptly leaving the company following an investigation into misconduct involving an “inappropriate relationship.” His departure has put a question mark over succession at the Hollywood studio and the fate of Hulu and NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock, concerns that Roberts looked to ease as he kicked off the morning call.
“… We are so fortunate to have the fabulous and tenured leadership team at NBCUniversal. Go down the list. You’ll see many of them have been leading their divisions within the company for at least 10 years and are truly the best in the business,” the Comcast chief added about his executive leadership team.
Roberts also praised Comcast president Mike Cavanagh, who stepped in to replace Shell after working closely with the Comcast boss. “Mike is a fantastic executive and operator, many of you know well and he’ll work closely with each of the management team at NBCUniversal to continue our excellent momentum,” Roberts told analysts.
Cavanagh, asked about potential strategic and operational changes at NBCUniversal after Shell’s sudden departure, told analysts that “while it’s unfortunate to have an unexpected change in leadership, there is no reason for anyone to think that we’re going to revisit strategy as a result of that… So job number one is to just settle things down and make sure the businesses and the business leaders at NBCU remain focused on the job at hand.”
He added overseeing the entertainment arm in addition to continuing as the Comcast president role was helped by NBCUniversal having been led during Shell’s tenure by a wide leadership team and cross-studio input, and close collaboration with Cavanagh and Roberts at the Comcast helm.
“I frankly don’t think the business will miss a beat,” Cavanagh insisted. Asked if he would be a permanent head of NBCUniversal, Cavanagh told the morning call that “the way I’m stepping in to oversee NBCU is quite sustainable,” as no timetable on appointing a new NBCUniversal CEO has been set.
“Maybe someday we’ll think there’s a better way to approach it, but I’ll never be moving far away from the businesses no matter what, and I’m going to own the outcome. Think of me being there for a while,” Cavanagh added.
The Comcast president also chose not to address speculation about the future of Hulu. And asked about Hollywood writers potentially striking as negotiations on a new Writers Guild of America deal go down to the wire, Cavanagh told analysts “we certainly hope we find an equitable outcome that avoids a strike, and that’s what our team has planned for.”
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