Bird Bites Man?

Amidst a somewhat tumultuous week for certain divisions of NBCUniversal (make sure you return that IPad, Ronna, not that you were around long enough to have it set up for you), some news came out of the Peacock camp that seemed to trumpet that they found the secret sauce to streaming success.    Put a football game on that you can’t get anywhere else, and magic will happen.

That was certainly their spin in the wake of their nine-figure gambit to put an NFL playoff game within their walled garden, one that attracted more than 23 million Nielsen-authenticated viewers to a platform that reportedly had about 31 million subscribing households.  In an article published yesterday, NEXT TV’s Daniel Frankel reminded his readers that, per NBCU officials, that produced…the most domestic internet traffic in one day ever.

Moreover, late last week INDIE WIRE’s Tony Maglio dropped this little nugget that seemed to go right for the jugulars of the snarkers that dismissed that result as a one-night stand, as an awful lot of disgruntled Dolphins fans who took to social media expressed at the time:

With the first-ever streaming-exclusive NFL playoff game, Peacock added 3 million new signups. (Earlier data had the number at 2.8 million over three days.) With Peacock’s free-trial option blacked out for the Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins, all of those were paid subscribers. They didn’t dine and dash.  New research from Antenna finds that an impressive 71 percent (2.13 million) of those new Peacock users were still around by the end of February, nearly seven weeks after the game. 

And Nielsen’s February Gauge report, also released last week, seemed to show that, at least based upon the partial universe for streamers that the old guard measures, Peacock was a big winner there as well.  In a separate piece authored by the very busy Mr. Frankel, his color commentary pointed out that there were significant year-over-year gains for YouTube, Tubi and Peacock.  YouTube jumped to a sector-leading 9.3% of total U.S. TV watching for people 2 and older last month, according to Nielsen. Fox’s ad-supported Tubi also had a big market share jump over that span (from 1% of viewing to 1.7%), as did Peacock (from 1% – 1.4%). 

See?  They signed up, and they’re watching more than they did.  Sure sounds like a significant win-win.  Ah, the power of spin.

That subscriber increase?  Well, yep, they have hung around longer than many pundits initially believed, and Maglio reminds that (e)ven before it was adjusted up from the initial +2.8 million subs, Dolphins-at-Chiefs was the biggest SVOD subscriber-acquisition-moment ever observed by Antenna, which has been in the streaming-measurement game since 2019. (The biggest single day for streaming signups remains Disney+ launch day: with 2.5 million signups in 2019).  

Yet this is hardly an unprecedented occurrence for Peacock, or even for the NFL.  Buoyed by a significant amount of free subscriptions for Comcast clients during the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in summer 2021, Peacock peaked at north of 30 million subscribers, only to drop back significantly once the halo of that event, not to mention the end of those free trials, occurred.  And Maglio then had to really scramble to try and qualify the Peacock numbers in the wake of numbers just announced by Antenna for a later post-season game this year:

Peacock was not the only streaming app to cash in on football over the past few months. Since CBS has Super Bowl LVIII’s broadcast rights, Paramount+ had the streaming honors.

Super Bowl LVIII was (basically) the most-watched program in U.S. history, and it drew an estimated 3.4 million sign-ups to Paramount+, Antenna estimates. Paramount+ did allow for those on a free trial to watch the big game; 2.3 million of those 3.4 million signups, or 68 percent, took advantage. That means 1.1 million paid.

Here’s a chart that shows signup activity for both Peacock and Paramount+. You’ll see some pretty flat months, then some extra activity during the NFL season, and finally two big spikes for the key games.

And those “impressive” numbers?  Yep, 23 million in a Peacock-sized universe is pretty darn good; if one assumes Nielsen viewers-per-household estimates to be accurate, that’s approximately 30% of all possible viewers watching.  But lest we forget that Super Bowl LVIII was watched by about 40% of all possible viewers.  And you can parse through recent NFL viewership data and see equally impressive proportions for broadcast, cable and Amazon prime.   The NFL is even going to play two Wednesday games on Christmas Day this year because they can read numbers pretty well, too.  We ‘Mericans like our pigskin.  There’s a revelation.

And those Nielsen gains for Peacock overall?  Sure, a 40 per cent year/year jump sounds great.  But that 0.4 percent was less than what Netflix and Tubi saw, and, by inference, Paramount+.  And they remained a solid seventh among ad-supported streaming services, still trailing the declining Hulu and Prime Video, and still by a significant margin.  Another “tightened gap” headline, I suppose.

Still, this does give Peacock the justification to go back to the well for what will be still another NFL event which Frankel trumpeted earlier this week:

Parent company NBCUniversal on Tuesday announced that an NFL opening-weekend game set for Friday night Sept. 6, live from São Paulo, Brazil, will be shown only on the subscription streaming service. (The NFL will announce the matchup when it publishes its schedule in May, but one of the teams featured will be the Philadelphia Eagles.)  

The game will highlight a busy week of early-season football for Peacock, which will also stream simulcasts, along with NBC, of the first game of the season, as well as the first Sunday Night Football game of the 2024 campaign:

* Thurs., Sept. 5 – NFL Kickoff Game (NBC, Peacock) * Fri., Sept. 6 – Peacock Exclusive NFL Game from São Paulo, Brazil * Sat., Sept. 7 – Big Ten Saturday Night (NBC, Peacock) * Sun., Sept. 8 – Season Debut of Primetime’s #1 Show: Sunday Night Football (NBC, Peacock).

Since this all happens not long after the close of this summer’s Paris Olympics, it appears NBCU is attempting to take steps to stop the kind of bleeding they saw three years ago.  And with the favorite team of the corporate rank and file no less, with over-the-air rights in their home market for their owned-and-operated station.

But with all these impressive numbers, a far less impressive one still hands over the heads of those who are, pardon the pun, crowing with all of this click-worthy content.  You know, the one that Maglio snuck in amidst all the others:

 The service lost $825 million over the final quarter of ’23, and there is still no timeline on Peacock turning a profit. (Even Paramount+ has one of those.)

A sobering reminder of the attempt at spin that the top brass at Comcast offered which  VARIETY’s Jennifer Maas volleyed last December:

(A)ccording to Comcast CEO Mike Cavanagh, the platform saw $2.8 billion in losses this year (coming in under the $3 billion projected by the company back in January), and Cavanagh expects that figure to be the peak loss for Peacock heading into 2024.

I guess he thinks Saquon Barkley’s gonna make up the difference for his hometown team’s running game that cost them dearly in last year’s post-season, too.

But, hey, I suspect Brian Roberts is more pleased by these headlines that some of the others he’s seen this week.  Those were definitely ones where man was biting at other creatures.

See you in September.

Until next time…

 

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