skip to main content
We may earn money when you click our links.

Peacock Adds 2 Million Subscribers With Strong Movie Releases

Peacock and Universal movies

The Take

  • NBCUniversal, which released Peacock numbers on Thursday, reported a bump in subscribers which could be attributed to successful theatrical releases coming to streaming.
  • Universal had a lot of success in the first quarter with theatrical film releases, including Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and M3GAN.
  • Films that open in theaters first drive more streaming engagement than straight-to-streaming films.
  • The news comes on the heels of CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where movie studios emphasized theatrical releases—even if it’s just to add streaming subscribers.

NBCUniversal announced subscriber numbers for Peacock on Thursday. The streaming service, which has exclusive streaming shows, sports rights, and first-window movies, added 2 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2023.

According to the company, even without the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Cup, or new programming to boost numbers, subscribers are up 60 percent year-on-year. Peacock now has 22 million paid subscribers in the U.S.

Peacock did not premiere a lot of original programming in the first quarter. Of the eight releases, only two seemed to make a pop-culture dent: the mystery series Poker Face and the reality competition The Traitors.

Yet, Universal Studios succeeded in early 2023 with the theatrical releases of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, M3GAN, Cocaine Bear, and Knock at the Cabin, and then the studio promoted those theatrical successes on Peacock with exclusive streaming windows. Taken together, NBCUniversal was able to boost its studio revenue and subscriber numbers with the same releases. (Universal and Illumination’s record-breaking animated film Super Mario Brothers was released in quarter two and will be accounted for in June.)

Theatrical releases help streaming

Can Peacock’s streaming boost be attributed to successful theatrical movies? We can’t be sure as Comcast doesn’t make the correlation in their earnings report, but with only a few original releases and no major sporting events boosting sign-ups, it’s fair to say that new movies helped Peacock.

“If a film opens in theaters first and then goes to a streamer, it gets on average 74 percent more streaming hours in the first four weeks,” The Ankler reported.

Peacock is doing something right. At the end of March, six of its movies placed in the top ten for movies generating the most interest that week. All six had been released in theaters initially before streaming on Peacock. Of those six movies, three were Universal movies released in theaters in the previous three months.

There’s an argument to be made that movies do best in theaters before moving to streaming. However, on the Netflix earnings call last week, the company doubled down on streaming and called out competitors who still focus on theatrical. Apple and Amazon are spending to put movies in theaters, and the other streamers, besides Netflix, are connected to major studios that release movies theatrically.

The numbers from NBCUniversal prove a correlation between theatrical releases like M3GAN and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which do well in theaters and can boost subscriber numbers down the line.

As rival studio head Brian Robbins, Paramount Pictures president and CEO, said at CinemaCon this week, “We need theatrical to make streaming work.”

Don't miss an update

Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.