the streaming wars

Can NBC Strut Its Stuff With Peacock?

Photo: NBC

This story originally ran on January 16, 2020. We’re republishing it today as Peacock begins its launch with a two-week rollout to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers. The post has been edited to reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBC’s Peacock has landed — and it’s what most TV-industry insiders thought it would be. Comcast-owned NBCUniversal has just started presenting the details of its long-anticipated streaming play to investors and the media via a no-doubt splashy spectacle at the famed SNL Studio 8H. But based on press releases detailing the service, there aren’t any huge shocks: It’ll roll out first to Comcast cable and internet subscribers on April 15, and then go national around July 15, which would have been timed to the now-postponed Olympics. There’ll be multiple price points and tiers (it’s a bit confusing), and content from various arms of the NBCU empire, from news to sports to Law & Order. The closest thing to a paradigm-shift: NBC’s two big late-night shows will now premiere first on Peacock, hours before airing on NBC.

In terms of price and access, Peacock is taking a multi-feathered approach. The basic, ad-supported service — called Peacock Free — will have over 7,500 hours of programming, including full seasons of vintage shows, lots of news and sports, and Spanish-language programs. There’ll be some next-day reruns of NBC shows (but only first-year series) and select eps of Peacock Originals like the new Saved by the Bell follow-up. Anyone with a broadband connection can get it for free.

The next level of Peacock — Peacock Premium — will be the full-service platform with about 15,000 hours of content. It’ll have everything from the free tier, but it will add in next-day reruns of almost all NBC broadcast series, early access to the late-night shows (more on that later), and a lot more sports, including Premier League Soccer when it eventually returns. The cost: If you’ve got Comcast or Cox cable bundles, it’s still free (with ads). If you don’t, it’s $5 per month (and still with ads). NBCU and Comcast will be talking to other cable and satellite companies about offering Peacock Premium to bundled customers, so it’s possible that by July, many more people will have access. As it stands now, Peacock Premium will be in 24 million homes at launch.

The final Peacock tier is still called Peacock Premium, but it’s completely ad-free. It will run you $9.95 per month, seemingly even if you’re already a Comcast/Cox subscriber.

As for content, much of what Peacock will offer had been telegraphed months ahead of time. For example, there will be lots of Dick Wolf shows, though as of this afternoon, not the full Wolf. Peacock says all the major Wolf Films shows from the Law & Order and Chicago franchises will be represented on the service, but for now, one insider tells us that means full libraries of SVU and the three Chicago shows, plus “many seasons and episodes” from the original series and Criminal Intent — but not all of them, and not exclusively. The streamer also announced a new Tina Fey–produced comedy about a girl group (Girls5Eva), and some new comedies from Comcast-owned Sky (including the David Schwimmer–led Intelligence). The streamer has also snagged rerun plays of Two and a Half Men and The George Lopez Show as well as Paramount Network’s hit drama Yellowstone. And, of course, there will be reruns of The Office in 2021.

So, will it all work? Peacock has a good shot at succeeding in the game Comcast wants to play. The company has made it clear that it’s not going head-to-head with Netflix, Disney+, or WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBOMax. It wants to create a service that helps sell more advertising and find new eyeballs to replaces the ones its linear networks are losing. Peacock seems to be a solid step in that direction, even if there’s nothing announced yet that’ll keep Netflix execs up at night.

Can NBC Strut Its Stuff With Peacock?