Peacock President Kelly Campbell on the Deals, Acquisitions and Originals That Have Finally Made the Streamer Fly With Its Competition

·6-min read

The new regime at Peacock has spent the past nine months preparing to take its baby bird to new heights.

The number of big moves made by the NBCUniversal-owned streamer — from amping up its original content slate to livestream deals with Hallmark, Reelz and Big 10 college football to bringing NBC shows back into the fold for next-day viewing and eliminating its free tier for new users — is setting the stage for what executives hope will be a growth spurt in 2023. Peacock, which launched three years ago last month, will show of its brighter plumage Tuesday with its NewFronts presentation to advertisers.

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“It’s all coming together,” says Peacock president Kelly Campbell, who signed on in October 2021 after serving as president of Hulu. “We’re just seeing an increasing interest overall when it comes to inflow and engagement, and people are stickier than they were in the past.”

Of the Top 100 most-viewed library titles in 2022, Peacock had 25 of them in its catalog, including “SNL,” “The Office,” “The Voice” and “Yellowstone,” a higher share than almost all of their streaming competitors. And in December, the streamer accounted for 1% of all TV viewing in the U.S., per Nielsen, for the first time.

Content chief Susan Rovner’s original series are “punching” hard, Campbell emphasizes, pointing to a slate that includes Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne’s critically praised “Poker Face” and the offbeat dramedy “Mrs. Davis” alongside Peacock staple “Bel-Air.” Peacock has also benefited from the pay-one window movie licensing deal struck last year with Universal Pictures that has brought box office hits including “M3GAN” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” (According to Campbell, two out of three Peacock subscribers have watched a new Universal film on the platform.) These are the latest additions to a lineup that helped Peacock reach 22 million paid subscribers in Q1 (up 60% from last year), increase revenue 45% to $685 million and, as Campbell was set to note at the NewFronts event, draw more than 20 hours of monthly viewing per subscriber.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Kelly Campbell attends Peacock's "Meet Cute" New York Premiere on September 20, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Peacock chief Kelly Campbell (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Compared with market leaders like Netflix and Disney+, that’s still only a drop in the sub bucket. NBCUniversal is expected to record a $3 billion loss on Peacock this year — Campbell prefers to call it “peak investment” — but turn the tide in 2024.

Jessica Reif Ehrlich, Bank of America media analyst, says Peacock will meet that goal thanks to its next-day delivery of NBC and Bravo shows, sports rights (Peacock has drawn large audiences while live-streaming the Olympics, Super Bowl and World Cup) and the “phenomenal” performance of Universal’s film slate. But the big “struggle” for Peacock remains in original content, Reif Ehrlich says.

(Coming next year on the sports front: Peacock will stream every sport and event for the 2024 Paris Olympics, a Summer Games first, including all 329 medal events.)

“Comcast is generally conservative, and so they have not been willing to lose the kinds of money that others have,” Ehrlich says. “And in retrospect, they’re always right. Where did all of those losses get some of the competitors? And everybody’s making an about-face. So they’ve been slow and steady, and maybe disappointing in terms of subs. But on the other hand, they haven’t lost the kind of money that others have, and they won’t.”

As far as Campbell is concerned, slow and steady is what wins the race — lessons she learned during her years as a top marketing executive at Google and Hulu.

“Internally when we’re making these decisions and we’re looking at our growth strategy, of course we’re looking at big swings — anything that’s going to truly drive a step change in a business,” Campbell says. “But that’s all with the lens towards, this is our future, this is a strategic business for us, this is not a flash in the pan.”

Peacock’s newfront presentation is set for Tuesday, an event they are poised to impress at, based on Ehrlich’s assessment of the streamer’s hold on the ad community.

“They created the AVOD streaming model and it was really creative,” she said. “They were zigging where everyone was zagging and it’s clearly where the market is going to go. And as viewers flock to streaming, more and more ad dollars will go there and that’s where the growth overall will be. And it’s very important that Peacock has a position there.”

Campbell came to Peacock in October 2021, a little over year after its nationwide rollout.

“We experienced tremendous growth at Hulu,” Campbell said. “We launched all sorts of things that were first for the industry. And when it got to the point where I felt like we were really well penetrated in the U.S., I started seeing this other slice of the market. And that was where my energy was getting excited: what’s happening over here, and what are the new players doing. And I got to know the people at NBC and the team behind Peacock and was just smitten, frankly.”

The big question hanging over NBCUniversal’s streaming strategy is the fate of its one-third stake in Hulu, which will come to a head early next year. Disney will either complete its option to buy out NBCU’s stake and own Hulu outright, or decline that option, allowing Comcast to buy the streamer, a scenario Reif Ehrlich calls “highly unlikely.”

Campbell knows the Hulu terrain well. But for now, her focus is firmly on growing Peacock.

“I’m spending my day thinking about and making decisions that set us up for growth, and I am doing that in the context of the whole industry versus any particular deal,” she says. “Focus, from a leadership perspective, is incredibly important.”

And the focus at Peacock remains, specifically, on fandoms. Campbell and her team are able to boast about Bravo’s audience on Peacock more than doubling since the channel’s next-day initiative began last May, and how Peacock’s exclusive “superfan” episodes of “The Office” and undrated cut of “M3GAN” (Unrated) have spiked significant signups and engagement for the platform.

Soon after the “Community” reunion movie landed at Peacock last fall after an intense bidding war with several other, and bigger, platforms, series creator Dan Harmon called Peacock, lovingly, “the Greendale Community College of streamers” — a label Campbell adores, given what it says about the “scrappy” platform.

“I love that he said that, because I think the heart of Peacock is what makes us unique,” Campbell said. “It’s in our DNA, it’s in our culture. I’m so excited that this is going beyond the walls of Peacock. We’ve been living it and breathing it, but now, as we work with more creators and start to bring content to consumers, we’ve really seen it reflected back from creators and talent — and our consumers.”

(Pictured top: Peacock drama “Poker Face”)

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