When it comes to streaming, Comcast Corp. and NBCUniversal Media LLC executives maintain that ad-supported video on demand is the platform of choice.
The company said many of the 24.5 million monthly active accounts Peacock had at the close of 2021 opted for its ad-supported offerings.
Within that total base, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told analysts on the company's Jan. 27 earnings call that Peacock counted 9 million stand-alone paid subscribers, with the average revenue per user approaching $10 a month, including advertising.
Another 7 million subscribers were tied to bundled offerings through Comcast's platforms and those of other pay TV distributors, with that group receiving Peacock Premium at no extra charge. The company expects "strong conversion" over time from that group to paid.
Launched to Comcast systems in April 2020 and three months later nationally, Peacock has a free ad-supported tier with relatively limited content, a tier with expanded content and a light ad-load that retails for $4.99 per month, and an ad-free premium tier that costs $9.99.
Roberts said when Peacock was first introduced in early 2020, the company's vision was to offer premium content, supported primarily by advertising. He added that Peacock's engagement has proven "extremely valuable" to advertisers.
"Our research indicates that 80% of consumers prefer an ad-supported service over a higher-cost, ad-free SVOD offering," Roberts said. "We see this in our customer mix with the vast majority of our paid subscribers choosing the $5 paid AVOD tier over the $10 tier without ads."
The subscriber breakdown marks a first for Peacock, which previously had pointed to monthly active accounts and sign-up figures. At the close of the second quarter of 2021, NBCU reported 54 million sign-ups and 20 million active users.
At its investor day in January 2020 touting the service, the company forecast that Peacock would have 30 million to 35 million monthly active accounts by 2024.
Roberts said the burgeoning base has come despite Universal and other company-owned films and NBC (US) content still premiering on other streaming services, including HBO and Hulu LLC through the end of 2021. He said the majority of Peacock's best content lies ahead.
During the fourth quarter of 2021, Peacock revenue reached $335 million, up from $71 million in the year-ago period. However, the service's adjusted EBITDA loss widened to $559 million from $254 million in the prior-year period.
For the full year, Peacock posted $778 million in revenue and an adjusted EBITDA loss of $1.7 billion, versus $118 million in revenue and an adjusted EBITDA loss of $663 million in 2020.
The company will look to drive more subscriber gains by doubling Peacock spending to $3 billion in 2022, when it is expected to incur an EBITDA loss of $2.5 billion behind additional content and marketing initiatives, according to Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh.
Beyond that, the company may allot some $5 billion annually for Peacock programming.
Cavanagh said the additional outlays could delay Peacock's push toward profitability. At the investor day, the company projected Peacock would generate $2.5 billion in revenue by 2024, when it would break even on an EBITDA basis.
Peacock's premium tiers in the U.S. could realize subscriber growth during the current reporting period as it will be home to the entirety of NBCU's presentation of the Winter Olympics from Beijing in February.
Peacock gains will also come from abroad. The service became available through Comcast's Sky Ltd.'s holdings in the U.K. and Ireland in November 2021 before launching on Jan. 25 this year in Germany and Austria. The service will become available through Sky holdings in Italy and Switzerland later this year.
NBCU CEO Jeff Shell estimated that between Peacock's positioning on Sky and the upcoming launch of Sky Showtime, the joint venture in Europe with ViacomCBS Inc. targeting some 90 million broadband homes, the company has the potential to reach about 70% of the addressable market globally.
All told, NBCUniversal registered a 25.6% revenue rise to $9.34 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021 from $7.43 billion. For the full year, NBCU tallied a 26.1% revenue rise to $34.32 billion.