Peacock Topped 15 Million Paid Subscribers in Q3, NBCU’s CEO Says, Touting Movie Strategy and End of Hulu Deal for Next-Day Episodes

Has Peacock regained its forward momentum?

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell claimed the media company’s flagship streamer notched healthy growth in the third quarter — thanks to a strong content lineup, including Peacock’s reclaiming day-after-air rights to episodes of NBCU shows from Hulu.

Shell, in an appearance Tuesday on CNBC, said Peacock added more than 2 million paid subscribers in Q3, to top 15 million. Overall, Peacock’s active user accounts is now at 30 million, he said, up more than 3 million in the September quarter.

“If you have the right content, and you offer a broad distribution platform, your consumers are going to find you — and that’s what we’re doing with Peacock,” Shell said.

The Q3 growth is an improvement over the second quarter — when Peacock’s paid customer based was flat at 13 million and Peacock’s overall active accounts actually declined by about 1 million.

One of the drivers for Peacock’s turnaround, according to Shell, is that NBCU now has rights back from Hulu for current seasons of NBC shows as well as Bravo series the day after they air.

“All of our content that’s on NBC, Bravo, our other channels for the first time… is coming to Peacock, where it used to go to Hulu,” Shell said. “So if you want to watch ‘Saturday Night Live,’ if you want to watch ‘Real Housewives,’ if you want to watch ‘The Voice,’ all of our ‘Chicago’ shows… all of those are coming to Peacock.”

In addition to the next-day rights, Peacock last month clawed back dozens of past seasons of NBCU programming, including the entire run of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Shell also touted Peacock’s sports rights, including NFL and Premier League games, WWE, the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Big Ten Conference games starting in 2023. On the movie front, he cited the strategy to put Universal Pictures films directly on Peacock after their transactional home-video windows. Those included “Minions,” “Jurassic Park Dominion” and “Black Phone” in Q3, with others coming in the fourth quarter like Jordan Peele’s “Nope” and “Halloween Ends” (which is launching day-and-date on Peacock and in theaters).

“That construct of the windowing combined with the fact that streamers really want movies… has in my opinion made the movie business economically better than it’s been in the entire time since I’ve been in the movie business,” Shell said.

Other programming coming to Peacock includes a “Community” movie, along with nonexclusive rights to all six seasons of the sitcom (the first five of which originally aired on NBC).

Comcast reported that Peacock had an operating loss of $1.7 billion in 2021, and it expects that to grow to $2.5 billion in 2022. The cable and media giant is scheduled to report Q3 2022 earnings on Thursday, Oct. 27, before the market opens.

Shell also addressed the question of whether NBC will cut the 10 p.m. hour of primetime and return the timeslot to affiliates. “I don’t think we’re ready to make any decision on 10 o’clock… but we are looking to reallocate resources,” he said. “Right now, we have a lot of great shows at 10 o’clock, we make a lot of money at 10 o’clock” but Shell added that “as linear declines you have to make some trade-offs.”

During the CNBC interview, Shell said that NBCU would be interested in owning all of Hulu (it currently owns 33%), although he conceded that Disney is not interested in selling it — echoing comments that Comcast chief Brian Roberts made at an investment conference last month, who opined that Hulu would fetch a premium if Disney were to auction it off. “We, like a lot of other people, would want to own Hulu,” Shell said. “That’s not what we anticipate happening, but it’s a pretty valuable asset.”

CNBC is owned by NBCU. The interview with Shell was conducted by CNBC’s David Faber, who joked at the beginning of the segment that it’s “always a pleasure to interview your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss.”

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