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Sports will decide Peacock's fate

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Mar 28, 2024
Illustration of a peacock holding a TV remote in its beak.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Peacock's eventual streaming fate will rely on its sports properties more than other streamers.

Why it matters: Streaming has mostly been a money-losing endeavor for media giants trying to compete with Netflix, and the clock on turning a profit is ticking.

Zoom in: Evidence is building that sports are driving Peacock subscriptions.

  • The streamer's exclusive NFL playoff game in mid-January led to 3 million sign-ups, per streaming data firm Antenna.
  • Not only that, but Antenna found that by the end of February — seven weeks after the game — 71% of those new subscribers had stuck around.
  • "While audiences might sign up to watch a specific sport, they stay for everything else," Peacock president Kelly Campbell said during the company's One24 ad tech conference last week.
  • Case in point: Campbell pointed out that Jan. 14 — the day after the game — Peacock had its highest day of on-demand viewing ever in its brief history.

Driving the news: Peacock announced this week that it will have another exclusive NFL game next season when it streams the league's game from Brazil during its opening weekend in September.

What they're saying: "Sports has worked well for them from Day One," Bank of America's Jessica Reif Ehrlich tells Axios. "Viewers who came for Premier League wound up staying for shows like 'Yellowstone.'"

Yes, but: Peacock still lags behind its streaming competitors with 31 million subscribers at the end of 2023.

  • It also continues to lose money, with a $2.75 billion loss for the year, though executives have promised that those losses will start shrinking.

What's next: Live sports will lead Peacock's audience acquisition strategy.

  • Peacock will dominate NBCUniversal's Summer Olympics coverage with more than 5,000 hours of live programming, including all 329 medal events.
  • NBCU, Peacock's parent, is expected to bid on NBA rights when its exclusive negotiating period with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery expires next month. There's a growing expectation that streaming will be central to the league's next media deals.

Zoom out: It's not just Peacock; sports have rapidly become essential to media giants' streaming ambitions.

  • Netflix's move into live events with its big WWE deal could threaten Peacock's own dominance with the popular wrestling outfit when its major streaming deal with WWE expires in 2026.
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