A brand new streaming service enters the picture Wednesday NBCUniversal’s Peacock launches nationally.
Peacock is sticking its head up in what is the best of times and the worst of times for streaming services: Viewers confined at home during the coronavirus pandemic have been logging huge amounts of streaming screentime, but competition is increasingly tough thanks to new entrants including Apple TV+, Disney+, and HBO Max. There’s a lot of debate about just how many streamers customers are willing to pay for.
But for both viewers and business watchers, Peacock is notable because it’s hedging its bets on that question. Instead of trying to poach subscribers from the likes of Netflix, Peacock is the first new high-profile streaming service in more than a decade that offers a free, ad-supported tier. (Hulu offered a free tier following its launch in 2007, but that option was eliminated in 2016.)
Free is also a very appealing proposition for viewers, though they might quickly find they have to upgrade to see everything they’d like on the service. So if you’re weighing which option is right for you—or whether you want to bother with Peacock at all—here’s what you need to know.
How much does Peacock cost?
Peacock’s free tier is, well … free. But you’ll have to watch ads with your shows, and you’ll only have access to a little more than half of Peacock’s content.
One Peacock Premium tier will cost $4.99 per month, though it will be free for many viewers, including those who are already Comcast cable customers. This version of Premium includes a lot more programming than the free tier, but also still includes advertising.
Finally, for $10 per month, viewers can get an ad-free version of Peacock Premium. That’s still noticeably less than the monthly price of competitors including Netflix ($12.99 per month) and HBO Max ($14.99 per month).
How many ads will I have to watch?
Peacock says its free and Premium tiers will have five minutes of ads per hour of programming, or less. That’s well below the amount of ads you’ll see on either broadcast TV or most cable channels, which ranges from 14 to 17 minutes per hour. That may be sustainable at least in part because Peacock will feature NBCUniversal’s new interactive ads, which make it easier to buy products being advertised.
Peacock’s free tier includes 13,000 hours of programming, while the Premium tier has 20,000 hours’ worth. The division between free and Premium offerings, though, is a bit of a tangle.
Broadly, Peacock’s free tier will include rebroadcasts of current shows from NBC and Telemundo, such as This is Us, on a one-week delay. It also includes select episodes of Peacock’s original shows; a selection of movies; classic shows such as 30 Rock, Law and Order, and Cheers; and news. The free tier will also reportedly include some teaser sports broadcasts: four English Premier League soccer matches, coverage of U.S. Open tennis, and an NFL wild-card playoff game.
Peacock’s premium tier will feature the same NBCUniversal rebroadcasts, but available the day after broadcast instead of a week later. It will also add “premium” movies and full seasons of Peacock originals. NBC’s The Tonight Show and Late Night will reportedly air on Peacock before they’re broadcast, starting at 8p.m. ET, which could be a significant draw for some paying subscribers.
Premium subscribers will also get more sports, most notably 175 Premier League games—reportedly the most English football ever available to U.S. viewers.
Peacock is also licensing some older TV series from outside the NBCUniversal orbit. Those include Showtime series such as Ray Donovan and The Affair, and CW shows including Everybody Hates Chris and The Game. It’s not currently clear whether they’ll be available through Peacock’s free or premium tiers.
What are Peacock’s original shows?
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the production of some original Peacock programming, and delayed the Tokyo Olympics, which was expected to be a major driver for the platform’s launch. But Peacock will still have a solid slate of original shows, with full seasons available only to Premium subscribers. Particularly intriguing is an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s political dystopia Brave New World, which could tap into contemporary anxieties in the same way Amazon’s Handmaid’s Tale did when it debuted in 2017.
Other originals include the conspiracy thriller The Capture, featuring Ron Perlman and Shaun Emery; a reboot of ‘90s teen comedy Saved by the Bell (launching sometime in 2020); the cybercrime-workplace comedy Intelligence, starring Friends alum David Schwimmer; Sports-reality show In Deep featuring swimmer Ryan Lochte; and new kids’ shows including Cleopatra in Space and revamps of Curious George and Where’s Waldo.
Read Fortune‘s interview with David Schwimmer and costar Nick Mohammed here, and an interview with the cast of Psych 2 here.
What movies are on Peacock?
Peacock appears roughly comparable to Hulu in emphasizing episodic TV over movies, but it’s promising a decent selection at launch, including American Psycho, the Jurassic Park films, and Schindler’s List. Particularly notable are a package of Paramount films licensed from ViacomCBS, including the Godfather trilogy, American Beauty, and Fatal Attraction.
How can I watch Peacock?
Peacock’s streaming app will be available at launch on Apple and Google devices, on Microsoft Xbox, and on Vizio and LG smart TVs. NBCUniversal also announced on Tuesday that Peacock will be available to stream through Sony’s Playstation 4, though not until July 20, the week after the service launches.
Though it may be change at a later date, Peacock will not be available at launch through either Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices. Those are the two biggest streaming media players in the U.S., with about 70% of the U.S. streaming device market. Negotiations to get Peacock on Roku and Fire TV are reportedly stalled over details including how Peacock would share user data with streaming device makers, and where the channel would be featured in app marketplaces.
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- Christian Slater on retelling the Betty Broderick story in the new season of Dirty John
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- When jazz musicians aren’t live-streaming owing to coronavirus, they’re scrambling to rebook lost gigs