Peacock has had 42 million accounts sign up, but that number is next to worthless

The Peacock app on Apple TV
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Comcast today released its earnings for the first quarter of 2021, and with it gave some pretty impressive-sounding numbers for the Peacock streaming service, which is owned by NBCUniversal.

"Peacock Has 42 Million Sign-Ups to Date Across The U.S.," reads the bullet point, oddly in title case. And, indeed, that sounds pretty impressive. It'd put Peacock on par with the likes of HBO Max, which just announced nearly 41 million active accounts. Or Hulu, which last reported some 35.4 million subscribers.

Peacock, however, almost certainly is nowhere near the stature of HBO Max. And that's because that 42 million number is opaque as hell.

Start with the fact that Peacock — unlike just about every other streaming video on demand service in the United States — has a free tier. You can sign up for Peacock and watch shows without spending a dime. We don't know what percentage of that 42 million is of the free variety. (Peacock Premium, which you need to watch things like Premier League games, as well as other original series, costs $4.99 a month but still has advertising. You can get rid of the ads for another $5 a month.)

Then there's the fact that Peacock is strutting (as peacocks do) over the number of "sign-ups," and not the number of active accounts. And that means we don't have idea of how many people are actually using Peacock, versus those who signed up, checked it out, and haven't touched it since. (Or have canceled.)

That's two strikes, and it means we can't in good mathematical conscience list Peacock amongst the other biggest streaming services in the United States.

All that said, Comcast gave shout-outs to the WWE Network and The Office coming home as ways that Peacock has benefitted. So there's that. 

We just have no idea how much is all.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.