Comcast considers global launch for Peacock streaming service

(Logo: NBCUniversal/Comcast, Graphic: The Desk)

Pleased with the success of its streaming service Peacock over the last year, executives at Comcast are now considering plans to take the premium television service global.

Those plans would likely see Comcast leverage some of its overseas media properties, including its Sky satellite service in Europe, in order to boost marketing and strike program distribution deals for an international variant of its streaming service.

“As Peacock gained scale in the U.S., we see compelling ways we can expand internationally,” Brian Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said on a conference call with investors and reporters this week. “We’re looking to take advantage of the brand and scale of Sky across our European markets, and potentially strike partnerships with local programmers and distributors in geographies where it makes sense.”

Roberts said additional details of a global rollout for Peacock could be made available later this year.

The executive’s comments were the most-direct on the issue of Peacock potentially flying in overseas markets, but the consideration is hardly new: While the streaming service was in its earliest planning stages, executives chose the name “Peacock” because it served as a callback to the company’s flagship broadcast network, NBC, while giving Comcast the flexibility to offer Peacock as a streaming service with non-NBC content in regions where the NBC brand name is not as familiar to media consumers. Currently, Peacock is only available in the United States.

Comcast launched Peacock last April through a limited test run, offering its Xfinity video and Internet subscribers early access to the service. The service officially launched outside of Comcast’s limited run three months later, though users of Roku’s streaming devices didn’t gain access to the service until September. (Amazon Fire TV customers are still not able to install the app through conventional means.)

The streamer offers a free tier of service with a few programs and a premium tier with an expanded library of movies and TV shows for $5 a month. Both plans are supported by advertisements; Comcast customers who lease certain hardware are eligible to receive the premium version for free, and all Peacock premium streamers can pay an extra $5 a month to remove commercials from the service’s on-demand library.

Since it launched, Comcast has made a deep investment in juicing up Peacock’s programming: It snagged domestic streaming rights from Netflix for “The Office” while offering die-hard fans of the sitcom deleted scenes and expanded episodes. Earlier this year, it announced some live sporting events would move away from its own cable network, NBCSN, for Peacock.

More-recently, Comcast signed an agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that earned Peacock the heavyweight title of being the exclusive distributor of the WWE’s live events, documentaries and original programs.

That investment in programming helped Comcast land 42 million sign-ups to Peacock as of last month, according to figures released by the company this week. Roughly one-third of customers who sign up for the service stream Peacock’s content on a monthly basis, according to company executives.

“That is about a third of where Hulu is today,” Roberts said, referring to a rival streaming service operated by the Walt Disney Company. (Comcast continues to own a minority stake in Hulu).

“We’ve only been national for less than a year,” Roberts noted. “Hulu has been 13 years, so we’re very pleased with how [Peacock has] grown steadily.”

Peacock’s success could also have a significant impact on programming and investment at NBC, which continues to be a focus for Comcast, but one that could shift over the next few years. Without revealing specific data, Roberts said the average Peacock streamer “is using Peacock more than an average viewer is watching NBC.”

Out of the five major networks — ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC — NBC is the second most-watched broadcaster in America, behind CBS.

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