Yikes, another streaming option? Here comes Peacock
“If you love television there's arguably no better time to be alive than now because you've got so many high-quality choices at the touch of a button.”
Matt Strauss hopes one of the places you’ll choose to watch is Peacock, the NBC-infused streaming service that launches nationwide Wednesday.
The veteran Comcast/NBCUniversal executive is Peacock’s chairman, and Strauss recognizes the things that often bug viewers: subscription fatigue and the fact that many have a hard time remembering which service offers which programs.
I'm not exactly counting on Peacock to clear those things up. After all it's only the latest bird to land in an increasingly congested field of streaming rivals, each vying for your attention, and your dollars.
We’re talking the usual suspects here: Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, YouTube TV, Apple TV +, CBS All Access, Sling, on and on
(Peacock has been available since mid-April for parent company Comcast cable and internet subscribers.)
Ad supported. Peacock comes to market as an aggregated platform of about 13,000 hours of programming under a free tier, and more than 20,000 under a $4.99 a month premium offering. The premium tier is free too as part of a bundle for roughly 24 million Comcast and Cox Communications customers.
“Our ambition over the next 12 to 18 months is to structure similar bundling arrangements,” elsewhere, Strauss says.
To make “free” work for the company, Peacock’s tiers are advertiser supported, though premium customers have the option to fork over an extra $5 a month to watch ad-free. According to Strauss, viewers will see no more than five minutes of ads per hour, compared to the 16 to 18 minutes on traditional television. He adds that you won’t see the same ads run multiple times during a show, with the initial spots limited to 10 Peacock sponsors.
Peacock is also experimenting with different ways to deliver those ads, perhaps airing two minutes of ads before a movie starts, after which there won’t be any more commercials.
And in case you are wondering, you’ll be able to rewind, pause and fast-forward whatever you are watching, but cannot skip past the ads.
According to a recent Deloitte digital media trends survey, more U.S. consumers want access to cheaper, ad-supported streaming video options, both before (62%) and since the COVID-19 pandemic (65%), while 35% of consumers don’t want ads and will pay to avoid them.
What can you watch? Peacock’s foundation is built off NBCUniversal’s own content catalog, which includes TV fare like “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Movies come from the Comcast studio stable: DreamWorks Animation, Focus Features, Illumination and Universal.
And both free and premium tiers will feature current NBC shows such as “This is Us” and “The Blacklist” but you’ll have to wait a week after they air on broadcast television to watch on a free account.
Premium viewers will get next day access to current NBC shows. And only premium subscribers can watch the Peacock originals produced for the platform. You can watch the trailer for one Peacock original "The Capture" here, billed as a conspiracy thriller around fake news, and another, “Intelligence” with “Friends” alum David Schwimmer here, a workplace comedy set in a geeky and bureaucratic UK-based M15, M16-type setting.
Beyond what Strauss considers table stakes TV series, movies and kid programming, Peacock will offer a mix of news ("Meet The Press," "Today," "NBC Nightly News," CNBC, MSNBC, Notcias Telemundo) and live and on-demand sports (U.S. Open golf, Tour de France, Premier League soccer, NFL Wildcard game).
It won’t all be NBCUniversal flavored however. Peacock has cut deals with ViacomCBS, A&E, Lion’s Gate, Warner Bros. and Paramount.
“It speaks to this ambition of really trying to create a one-stop destination for consumers to go to where they’re not only going to get a very broad array of content, but it’s not specific to any one provider,” Strauss says.
The impact of COVID-19. It goes without saying that Peacock hasn’t been spared the coronavirus any less than the rest of the media and entertainment industry. One immediate blow to the company came with the postponement of the Olympics and other live sports. The Olympics were behind the original impetus for Peacock to launch in July.
Meanwhile, production delays and stoppages pared down the number of original programs Peacock had planned to launch with to nine, with more original content slated to arrive throughout the summer.
If there’s any kind of silver lining, Strauss points to all the Comcast viewers sheltering in place during the pandemic who were seeking the kind of nostalgic “comfort TV" that played to a Peacock strength. “While we didn’t have a huge stable of originals, we did happen to have a vast catalog of movies and TV shows that people really love.” By way of example, he ticked off “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Two and a Half Men,” King of Queens,” “Cheers” and “Frasier,” and movies such as “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park.”
How to watch? You need not subscribe to cable or satellite to get Peacock. Cord cutters can download the Peacock app onto a phone or computer. Peacock can also be accessed on Apple TV boxes, Google Chromecast and Android TV, certain smart TVs from Vizio and LG, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Comcast’s own Flex streaming devices.
But two biggies are missing: Roku and Amazon Fire TV, a major void.
“We are in discussion with everybody. Our ambition is certainly to be available on every device,” Strauss says.
Beyond missing Roku and Fire TV, there won’t be 4K content at launch either, which is a bummer.
Peacock will provide a combination of on-demand fare, and lean-back curated channels dedicated to “The Office” “SNL” and other content.
Moreover, Peacock is meant to keep viewers abreast of what’s happening in the world, whether it’s breaking news, or content billed around milestones and events, such as the 30th anniversary of the movie “Ghost" or a "30 Rock" reunion.
“I don’t know if there is any one right strategy when it comes to streaming (or there) has to be a winner take all approach,” Strauss says. “If you look at the traditional media landscape, there’s not one broadcast network, there’s been four. There’s not one cable network, there’s been hundreds. And I think you’re going to find that there’s more streaming options in the market.”
I haven’t had the opportunity to review Peacock in advance of its launch, so it’s difficult to weigh its merits against rival streamers. But Peacock boasts one big advantage: it’s hard to beat free, even if you have to tolerate some advertising.
How do you all feel about yet another streaming option?