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More than a third of Peacock subscribers are actually paying money

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service isn’t considered to be one of the major players in the space. And that may well be true, depending on how you interpret the numbers. On the other hand, executives sound plenty happy after Comcast’s after seeing fourth-quarter 2021 and year-end numbers.

Peacock finished the year with some 24.5 million monthly active accounts across all three tiers of service. Peacock starts at the low, low price of free, with advertising. The middle tier costs $5 a month and unlocks premium content like British Premier League games, as well as Super Bowl 2022, and has limited advertising in the on-demand shows. And for another $5 a month, you can get rid of most advertising.

The Peacock TV home screen.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

And we now know that “more than 9 million people” are on the two paid tiers, meaning that NBCUniversal is making money on somewhere around 36 percent of accounts. (That’s assuming “9 million people” means “accounts” and not actual people.)

“We haven’t really focused on paid subscribers,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said on the earnings call, “and we’re already over 9 million people paying us real money. And when you add the fact that in Comcast territory and some other of our distributors we offer this premium product bundled for free, and over time those will convert to pay, that’s a pretty favorable model.”

None of those numbers is really anything to shake your head at, either. By comparison, Hulu’s on-demand segment boasts nearly 40 million subscribers, with another 4 million tacked on if you add in its live TV component. HBO Max, meanwhile, just announced nearly 14 million retail subscriptions, which is a relatively close comparison. (Though the subscription rates vary a good bit there, with HBO Max hitting either $10 or $15 a month.) And Paramount+ — the streaming service from ViacomCBS — last reported numbers closes to the 50 million mark, but that also includes networks like Showtime, BET+ and Noggin.

What Peacock still lacks is any sort of tentpole content. The best shows on Peacock are devoid of any true must-see TV, like Yellowstone on Paramount+ or The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. Yes, Super Bowl LVI will help. But in the long term, Peacock is going to need more.

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