Peacock gains ground with some in-demand originals, but is still largely reliant on its library content

28 April, 2023

On Thursday, Comcast announced its Q1 2023 earnings. The topline takeaways for its streaming business were that there was an impressive growth in Peacock subscribers to 22 million and while revenue was up 45%, Peacock’s losses were mounting ($704 million vs. $456 million a year ago).

Our demand data shows a jump in demand for the platform’s originals this quarter. Peacock’s US share of demand for its original series hit a new high in Q1 2023, with the debut of Poker Face and Season 2 of Bel-Air both setting new records for peak US demand for the platform. Parrot Analytics’ Contention Valuation analysis has found that Poker Face is a powerful subscriber acquisition driver for Peacock. Peacock’s investments in original content are clearly paying off in subscriber growth by providing people a powerful incentive to sign up to the platform.


The 3.3% share of demand for streaming original series in the US that was driven by Peacock titles represents a new peak for the platform. While it is still well behind competitors (particularly since Paramount+ has made strong gains recently), 3.3% is three times larger than the platform’s share of demand two years ago (1.1% in Q1 2021). The debut of Poker Face (peak of 27.1x more demand than the average show in the US) and the second season of Bel-Air (peak of 25.9x) saw the two highest US demand peaks for any Peacock original. These were significantly higher than previous top Peacock originals The Lost Symbol (17.2x peak demand) in 2021 and Brave New World (15.0x) in 2020. Demand for original content is a key leading indicator of subscriber growth, and Peacock’s 60% subscriber growth year on year underscores that.


However, the vast majority of demand for shows on Peacock still comes from library titles.  Only one of the 25 most in-demand titles on Peacock with US audiences was a Peacock original (Poker Face), which ranked as the 20th most in-demand show available on the platform for the quarter. Saturday Night Live continues to be the gem in Peacock’s catalog this quarter.  Its 60.72x demand far surpassed demand for any other series on the streamer.  Other highlights include WWE content, continued high demand for The Office, and Yellowstone, the cornerstone of the Paramount franchise that Peacock was able to nab for itself.

NBCUniversal as a whole has one of the most in-demand and valuable TV libraries in the industry. The company has been successfully leveraging this to both increase Peacock’s paid subscribers, which now stands at 22 million, and keep said subscribers on the platform.  NBCUniversal-originated series accounted for one tenth of all US TV demand in the first quarter of 2023. This makes it one of the five largest corporations when it comes to TV demand ownership in the US.


As of Q1 2023, NBCUniversal was ahead of Netflix’s 8.3%, but trails its legacy media competitors Disney (20.0%), Warner Bros. Discovery (17.2%), and Paramount Global (12.5%) in this crucial category.  This 10% corporate demand share is still highly valuable to Comcast, especially if CEO Brian Roberts is looking to either offload NBCUniversal or acquire Paramount or Warner Bros. Discovery in the coming years. Either combination would position the combined entity ahead of Disney in US corporate demand share for TV content.

Questions remain about Comcast’s endgame with both Peacock and NBCUniversal as a whole. Can a major SVOD succeed with demand mostly driven by library titles like Peacock?  How much more money is Comcast CEO Brian Roberts willing to part with before Peacock turns a profit? The streamer is set to lose $3B in 2023, after a $2.5B loss in 2022. 

If Comcast is serious about its long term streaming ambitions, it must weigh its two most likely expansion plans. Buying out Disney’s ownership stake in Hulu is likely to cost nearly $20B, and would probably put an acquisition of Warner Bros. Discovery or Paramount Global off the table. But scaling via taking over Hulu or M&A with a competitor is likely necessary if Comcast wants to be a top player in the streaming era long term.

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