A simple path to move the narrative from meaningless metrics like total sign-ups to more impactful ones like DAU growth.
Peacock is NBCUniversal’s parent company Comcast’s DTC product to compete in the streaming wars with media’s elite, which is a huge bet. They operate one of the most recognizable media brands in the country with NBC for one. The 2020 Olympics were supposed to be the platform that launched Peacock into prominence. However, the Olympic’s postponement, accompanied by the delays with sports and other production hiatus,’ worked in Comcast’s favor because it helped offset losses. Also, Peacock enables NBCUniversal to incorporate more content outside of their portfolio in a DTC offering, creating substantially more value for subscribers or free viewers. HBO Max confused customers by bolting-on random content into a product leveraging the iconic HBO brand, a longer story for a rainier day.
As a consumer, it feels like the Peacock app is an extension of their core business, like a tv everywhere (TVE) app that requires authentication through a cable provider to access the content. It doesn’t just appear that way. NBCUniversal is structured to deliver Peacock as a broadcast network.
Peacock has generated a ton of momentum in a short amount of time. In Q2, Brian Roberts touted 10M sign-ups, along with “People are watching more frequently and for much longer than we projected.” He shared that Peacock achieved 22M sign-ups, more than doubling the first quarter's output in the second since its’ launch.
The metric Comcast is selling to investors, coupled with the aforementioned statement that people are consuming beyond projections, are both entirely objective. First, sign-ups are a meaningless metric. To experience a live stream of any kind on Peacock, you must complete a form using your email address. Let’s assume you do not even have to verify your email to be included in an activation total because there is no incentive for exclusion. A contrast to AVOD services like ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, whose growth is exploding QoQ, and largely because they do not enforce an email address and autoplay a stream the second you visit their site or open any of their apps.
Mr. Roberts is effectively stating that A) Peacock has obtained 22M email addresses, with no indication that any of them launched a single video. B) they have other data the market may or may not like, but they are safeguarding it for now. The latter is expected. Services with an ad-supported tier disclose their MAU count, which is another vanity metric, but one that might be more valuable to assess growth. However, MAU can also be used to fool investors because without forcing authentication on at least some devices, you have multiple IDs assigned to a single user. NBC has millions of active users on their own apps. Since you can unlock Peacock content using an NBC Profile, it’s highly likely that they achieved a solid chunk of these activations via cross-promotions baked into their flagship product. For example, you can ‘unlock’ content from Peacock in the NBC iOS app simply by authenticating.
So, how do consumers feel about Peacock?
The iOS app store is an incredible resource for determining the baseline for how consumers feel about any business monetizing or attracting customers through apps. Which, in the COVID era, includes the vast majority of B2C companies. (Another solid indicator of the quality of an app, or any digital product, is how often it is updated.) Regardless of the average rating, it becomes more glaringly-apparent how consumers feel when you filter by the Most Recent reviews. Apple controls the default Most Helpful view, which skews the feed drastically.
Peacock TVs average iOS app rating is 2.51/5-stars, which is bad. The only other streaming media app that scores under 3.0 is HBO Max, another recent streaming wars entrant, and one that is still playing catch up after a slow start caused by their confusing launch.
What’s worse is that nearly half of all iOS reviews are 1-star.
There are three general themes to the 3,556 people who felt compelled to trash the iOS app.
1 — Where is Harry Potter?! Peacock launched with the entire Harry Potter catalog, and, in October, their license expired without warning, sending fans into a panic.
2 — QoS issues. Many surfaced complaints around bugs affecting casting from the iOS app to Chromecast, Google’s attachment for streaming apps from modern TVs. (This one below is cut-off; it goes for three full scrolls.)
3 — English Premier League. Premium subscribers can view English Premier League soccer games, and many say the streaming quality is poor or that the paywall gate took them by surprise.
Additionally, many of the 2-star and 3-star reviewers also had similar points.
There are so many negative reviews because Peacock treats their app as a channel broadcasting content to users. DTC streaming media brands must deliver compelling content through their products, yes. At a minimum, there must be a mechanism for users to leave feedback, which does not exist in Peacock’s case. There is only an FAQ page buried in the back of the settings menu. Hence why so many people are vocalizing their frustrations on a public forum. Their team can drive-down the number of 1-star reviews by making feedback accessible within the app.
Prompt engaged users, such as those that stream an average of 60-minutes per week over the course of at least 2-months, to rate the app once they complete a video. Delivering a survey first can filter anyone out who selects less than 5-stars, and then directs others to leave feedback via email instead of submitting a review. Surveys delivered contextually in the app generate 2X to 10X more completions than those sent to users via email.
One of the most impactful things a streaming app can do is create a seamless path to connecting to the tv from the mobile app itself. Many of the frustrated users’ reviews highlighted issues with casting to Chromecast. Any Apple device will likely struggle to interoperate with any Google device, and that’s out of Peacock’s control. Additionally, any inputs from a tv remote are single points of failure where users will drop-off and abandon their intent to authenticate and stream. Remember, authentication is required for access to Peacock.
Enable sharing from the app. A contributing factor to Quibi’s short shelf-life was that you could not share content, or even screenshot, directly from the app. A more substantial problem if your target audience skews younger. Several apps block screenshotting from the app, such as Hulu, Disney+, and YouTube TV, to name a few. Perhaps some content is restricted due to licensing agreements. However, nothing can exist in a vacuum in 2020. Find a way to enable sharing and prompt users to do so when they just extracted value from the app, and organic growth will compound over time. That’s the least Peacock can do considering Mr. Robert’s recent remarks around how their service is “the opposite of Quibi.”
The streaming wars will only become more competitive, and CAC will continue to skyrocket. The brands that align their product and marketing objectives with guiding users through achievements and milestones consistently will foster healthy habits. Leading them to outpace those that rely primarily on the breadth of content in their library to attract and retain subscribers. For any business, focusing on consumers and prioritizing them over the services offered seems obvious. However, the only company executing this well at scale consists of a trillion-dollar one that owns the device in your hand, Apple.
—Rory Kane, Growth Advisor & Proprietor, Audience Perspective LLC