The UBS Global TMT conference kicked off on Monday, December 5, and one of the first executives to speak to analysts and investors at the event was NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell. The big news from Shell’s panel at the conference was the news that NBCU’s streaming service Peacock had doubled its total number of paid subscribers in 2022, from 9 million in January to more than 18 million in december.
Shell touched on a myriad of other topics at the conference, including the company’s planned sale of its stake in Hulu to Disney. Shell still believes the sale will take place in 2024, despite Disney’s abrupt change of CEO from Bob Chapek to Bob Iger.
“I don’t think there’s any indication that anything else is going to happen. [other than] Disney writes us a big check for Hulu in 24,” Shell said.
Moving NBCU shows from Hulu to Comcast earlier this fall was very beneficial for Peacock, according to Shell. He said series like “Saturday Night Live,” which originally aired on NBC and aired on Peacock the following day, performed “above our expectations” in their new home.
Shell also explained how the company plans to turn even more users at the free service level – either over the top (OTT) or via a Comcast cable and internet package – into paying subscribers. A Peacock ad-supported level subscription is included free for every Comcast Internet subscriber in the United States. Shell did not provide details on how the company plans to further monetize these customers, but suggested that a plan for such monetization may be available soon.
“The surge in subscribers we’ve seen over the past six months – driven by our movies, driven by content coming from Hulu, primarily the World Cup – has also happened on the bundled side where we see more people using it in Comcast Homes, which increases the size of the pool that we then have to convert to paying homes,” Shell said. “So over the next couple of years we’ll probably be moving towards that model.”
Shell also singled out the animation segment of NBCU’s film business for praise after an incredibly successful year with several box office hits and another major property coming before the end of the year.
“I honestly think that not only are we challenging Disney in animation, but I would take our animation business over theirs right now,” he said. “We have the only bona fide global hit in animation right now with ‘Minions’ and ‘Despicable Me.’ DreamWorks is doing very well, and we have ‘Puss in Boots’ in a few weeks, which will be our first part of the Shrek franchise, which is a good thing.
It can’t be said that Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” was a smash hit for the company. The film has seen an 84-day theatrical run and a box office return of over $920 million to date. Disney, meanwhile, is set to take a $100 million loss on its latest animated theatrical release “Strange World,” according to Variety.
The happy days are seemingly here to stay at Peacock, where subscriber counts and average revenue per user are growing. But Comcast customers who currently get the service for free will want to keep an eye out for the next two years, as they’ll likely have to start paying for Peacock within that time frame.