Comcast’s streaming platform Peacock nabs 33 million customers.
Peacock, Comcast’s ad-supported streaming service, grabbed over 33 million customers as of the end of last year, a 50 percent jump from September, the company reported in its fourth-quarter results Thursday.
The company overall saw a 2.4 percent drop in sales to $27.7 billion and a 29 percent plummet in adjusted profit to $2.6 billion as the pandemic continued to cut into its theatrical and theme parks businesses. Still, Comcast’s performance beat investor’s expectations. Brian Roberts, the chief executive, said he is “optimistic” the company will come back toward growth as vaccines are distributed throughout the world.
Comcast also announced it would raise its dividend payments to shareholders by 8 cents on an annualized basis to $1 per share and plans to repurchase shares later in the year. The stock rose more than 4 percent in premarket trading.
Comcast has recast itself as more of an internet and technology provider than a television service, and its focus on Peacock is part of that effort. The company’s quarterly performance has become a regular reminder of that ongoing transformation. Comcast’s traditional pay-TV business lost 248,000 customers in the period, but it added 538,000 broadband subscribers for a total of 30.6 million, a high. Its cable video customers now number only 19.8 million.
The company’s NBCUniversal division, which continues to undergo a massive reorganization, last week announced a deal with WWE to make Peacock its exclusive streaming provider, in effect buying out the WWE Network’s digital TV service. Peacock recently got the rights to “The Office,” a popular show with streaming audiences, and NBCUniversal has bolstered Peacock’s sports lineup, adding the majority of its Premier League games to the platform. Comcast also plans to shut down its NBC Sports Cable network by the end of this year and shunt its programming over to Peacock and the USA Network.
Peacock generated more than $100 million in revenue last year, but it’s still a money-loser, eating into pretax profit by $700 million. The company expects those losses to continue this year. Longer term, Peacock is meant to replace the lost advertising dollars from a shrinking pay-TV universe. That means it will need to be far larger and be available on digital players as well as other broadband systems such as Cox and Charter. Adding more sports and exclusive content would help add leverage to those negotiations.
Comcast’s NBC broadcast group saw a 12 percent drop in sales to $2.7 billion on weaker advertising, in part because of the loss of sports programming, while its studios division fell 8.3 percent to $1.4 billion. Advertising across its broadcast and cable networks fell 7.8 percent to $2.5 billion. Theme parks dropped 63 percent to $579 million.
The company still expects the Tokyo Olympics to take place this summer, a cash cow for its advertising business.
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