Peacock Had a "Fantastic Launch," Says Comcast CEO

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts
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Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts also talked about the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and NFL remaining a "big priority" during rights renewal talks during an investors conference appearance.

After NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock surpassed 33 million signups, Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts touted post-launch growth prospects during an appearance at an investors conference Wednesday.

"Peacock had a fantastic launch. And we're only a few months into it," Roberts told Morgan Stanley’s 2021 Technology, Media & Telecom Conference during a session that was webcast. He added that NBCUniversal was looking to ride the early momentum for Peacock by possibly accelerating growth with additional "ramp up" investments.

NBCUniversal is focused on originals TV production to drive signups and usage of the AVOD service as it follows the rollout plan of fellow streaming newcomers Disney+ and HBO Max by also choosing from the extensive library of programming from across NBCUniversal's portfolio. At the same time, Roberts said the studio would look to pull back and "redeploy" premium content from Hulu to encourage consumers to subscribe to Peacock.

He forecast the AVOD platform would get on more digital platforms after NBCUniversal recently successfully negotiated a distribution deal with Roku, while a deal with Amazon and its Fire TV users still eludes the studio. And as the upcoming Tokyo Olympics will be used to turbocharge Peacock's trajectory, Roberts answered a question about whether the Summer Games, set to begin July 23, will go ahead amid rising COVID-19 cases in Japan after being delayed by a year by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"It's not my decision. But I think it's not if, but how," he argued, as Olympics organizers have to sort out questions of spectators at events and other logistics to ensure COVID safety. On the theme parks side, Roberts announced that construction on Epic Universe at the Universal Orlando Resort had resumed.

And he also talked about NBCUniversal's long-term bets on TV sports as the studio negotiates with the NFL for a renewal of Sunday Night Football and Sky in the U.K. faces an auction for the U.K. broadcast rights to the Premier League's 2022-25 seasons.

"You start with realism. You've got to take an honest look at where the value is and try to be honest with yourself and how you can pay for it and not," Roberts told the investors conference. He said the NFL was "big priority," but that didn't mean the studio would roll over in its talks with the pro league.

"There will be tough decisions where we have relationships that maybe won't be continued," Roberts added. And he insisted NBCUniversal will look for a "streaming relationship" for its TV sport properties.

Roberts also reminded investors that NBCUniversal has an exit strategy for its 30 percent stake in Hulu that could be lucrative for shareholders. "[Hulu] has been a tremendous company. We have an exit opportunity in a couple years. The opportunity to get a lot of cash from Hulu is coming our way," he said.