Millions of families are getting early access to Peacock, the new streaming service from NBCUniversal. Although limited to Xfinity’s cable broadband customers at the moment, Peacock will rollout nationwide in July. The thing is, family entertainment budgets aren’t what they used to be and the streaming market is already very crowded.
Is Peacock worth the extra hit to your wallet? Check out Flixed’s Peacock review to help decide how Peacock fits into your streaming entertainment portfolio.
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What is Peacock?
It was only a matter of time before NBCUniversal took another stab at direct-to-consumer streaming. The media giant’s less-than-stellar history isn’t very inspiring. SeeSo launched in 2017 as a streaming service focused on comedy but it only survived a year before being shut down. NBCUniversal was one of the original contributors to Hulu in 2007. Although successful, Hulu is now majority-owned by Disney.
With the growing success of Netflix and streaming platforms arriving from NBC’s traditional competitors CBS and Disney-owned ABC, NBCUniversal announced in 2019 that they would launch an NBC-centric streaming service. “We’re going to unite the whole company behind it,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke explained to Variety at the time.
In early 2020, just as everyone had to stay home due to the coronavirus, Peacock launched as a limited-access service. Peacock is owned by NBCUniversal which is owned by Comcast which owns the Xfinity cable and broadband service provider. In April, Xfinity’s customers received word that they could get the ad-supported Peacock Premium plan free with their broadband subscription.
Peacock will formally launch across the United States in mid-July with a low-cost, ad-supported freemium business model. A free subscription tier will provide a limited selection from the Peacock catalog, but most people will choose the $5-per-month Peacock Premium plan. An option for going ad-free will cost another $5 per month.
Peacock 60-Second Summary
This ad-supported streaming service will give people access to some of the most popular content from NBCUniversal. When it launches nationwide in July, people will be able to choose between a free account, a $5-per-month ad-supported subscription plan and a $10-per-month ad-free subscription plan.
The TV content on Peacock includes popular shows like Friends and The Office as well as recently-aired episodes from programs like Saturday Night Live and New Amsterdam. You’ll also find classic TV shows from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s like Murder, She Wrote and 21 Jump Street.
NBCUniversal’s movie archives include franchises like How to Train Your Dragon, Jason Bourne and Fast and Furious. It also includes classics like The Sting and Abbott & Costello.
During early testing, streaming support for HD and 4KUHD content came through consistently. Specific support for streaming devices hasn’t been announced, but Peacock will let you and your family use up to three devices simultaneously.
Peacock Pros and Cons
You can’t argue with free, but NBCUniversal’s library of content makes Peacock a compelling choice. But there’s reason to wait for the full Peacock launch. App support isn’t clear and Peacock’s content library is difficult to browse.
- Free access option
- Affordable monthly subscriptions
- Large catalog of popular content
- Mix of live and on-demand content
- Limited availability until July
- Uncertainty over device support
- Complicates family streaming budgets
- Poor discoverability with limited search function
Peacock Plans and Pricing
NBCUniversal’s executives view advertising as a fundamental part of the TV business. Rather than relying on a pure subscription business model like Netflix or a pure advertising structure like PlutoTV, Peacock uses a blend of advertising and subscriptions.
Peacock’s base plan is completely free. Users will have limited access to Peacock’s ad-supported content catalog, but they won’t have to pay anything.
Peacock Premium is the subscription plan the company expects most people to get. Free to Xfinity broadband subscribers, Peacock Premium will cost $5-per-month when it rolls out nationally. You still have to watch ads, but you get full access to all of the content and features Peacock offers.
NBCUniversal is betting that only a small proportion of its subscribers will hate advertising enough to pay another $5 per month for Peacock Premium+. This subscription plan does not get you any additional content or better features. But it does remove most ads from Peacock’s content.
Advertising on Peacock
Unlike on cable or broadcast television, the ads on Peacock are not too bad. You get just as many commercial breaks, but you only have to watch one or two ads. Most breaks are less than sixty seconds. On top of that, advertising only interrupts programming designed for TV. Films released to theaters have not been edited to include commercial breaks.
Free Trial and Renewing
Based on the approach Peacock is taking with Xfinity customers, the national rollout will include a seven-day free trial for new users. Xfinity customers get Peacock Premium free of charge, so no free trial is needed. However, those Peacock users can get a free charge of Peacock Premium+’s ad-free experience.
Peacock Content Library
Peacock is following a strategy similar to CBS All Access and the Hulu/Disney+ combination. Since NBCUniversal has been producing content for television and the silver screen for decades, it has an enormous content catalog that it can let people access.
Peacock Original and Exclusive Content
NBCUniversal is producing a range of episodic shows and other content that will be exclusive to Peacock.
Shows already in the middle of filming include Angelyne, Brave New World and Rutherford Falls. Psych 2: Lassie Come Home is a movie based on the popular TV series.
Shows that Peacock is developing include another reboot of Battlestar Galactica, a reboot of Queer as Folk, updates of Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell, a Real Housewives “mashup”, and several talk shows.
However, with the film industry disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Peacock’s plans for releasing its original content may be changing.
Live and On-Demand TV Content
In addition to the original NBC broadcast network, there are several NBC-branded cable channels. NBC News produces content on CNBC and MSNBC as well as the NBC News Now digital platform. The NBC Sports Group broadcasts sports content on NBC, NBC Sports, NBCSN and the NBC regional sports channels.
NBCUniversal also operates several other cable channels. Entertainment and lifestyle channels include Bravo, E!, Oxygen, Syfy, Universal Kids and the USA Network. Other sports channels include the Golf Channel and the Olympic Channel.
Through Telemundo, NBCUniversal produces a full range of Spanish-language content. This includes news, entertainment and lifestyle content on the Telemundo, Universo and TeleXitos channels. Spanish-language sports content is available through Telemundo Deportes.
On-Demand Movie Content
Peacock does not include every movie ever produced by NBCUniversal’s studios. Instead, the streaming service rotates titles in and out of the content library to keep it “fresh” for subscribers.
Founded in 1912, Universal Pictures has more than a century of movie-making experience to contribute to Peacock. Of course, you won’t be watching Universal’s silent movies and only a few titles from before the 1950s appear in Peacock’s catalog. However, you will find major motion pictures from across the second half of the 20th Century and into modern times. This includes Peter Jackson’s reinterpretation of King Kong and award-winning classics like The Sting.
Universal Pictures also owns several other movie studios. Dreamworks Animation produced such hit franchises as Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon. Working Title Films is a British production studio responsible for such films as The Big Lebowski and Cats.
When you launch the Peacock app on a Flex device it opens to the Trending section and content autoplays. The navigation menu at the top of the screen provides five options: Search, Channels, Trending, Browse and Account.
This is Peacock’s biggest weakness. With such a deep catalog of content across a wide range of formats, years and genres, finding anything is very difficult. The dedicated search section only lets you search by title. There’s no way to search by director, actor, or year.
Given the way the other sections are organized, Peacock needs a better search function. Scrolling through 250 movie titles when you want to find comedies from the 2010s isn’t a great option.
The Channels section provides a traditional “linear” TV experience with continually-running channels. NBC Now Live and Sky News are both live streams from the news networks. Other channels are curated around special interests like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon and reality TV.
The programming guide works like a cable interface where you scroll up and down to find other channels. The interface only lets you see what programs are on next. You can’t pause or record the programs either.
The Trending section has a curated list of short content that starts with This Day in History. One day during this review this was a clip of Diane’s final appearance on Cheers. This clip autoplays and then starts a series of half a dozen auto-playing clips from NBC News programs, late-night shows, and other programs.
The Browse section is Peacock’s on-demand catalog. The top menu lets you filter the catalog by seven categories: Featured, TV Shows, Movies, Kids, News, Sports and Latino.
All of the categories are structured in the same way. There’s a carousel of featured content at the top and specially-curated lists below. The last list contains all of the content in that category. If you scroll to the left of any list, you get an option to see everything. This is most useful when looking at the full content list.
Browse includes a number of curated collections of content on Peacock. Peacock Picks, for example, lists popular titles including Two and a Half Men and New Amsterdam. TV Moms We Love, on the other hand, includes King of Queens and Friday Night Lights. Coming Soon lets you watch trailers for Peacock Original content slated for release this year.
Browse TV Shows
The TV Shows category includes programs produced by NBC and its various cable channels. Featured shows include Law & Order: SVU, Superstore, Hollywood Game Night and more.
The curated list of science fiction shows includes the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, Sliders and the original Seaquest DSV as well as currently-airing shows like Manifest. Under comedies, you can choose from Parks and Rec, Frasier, Will and Grace, and more.
In Movies, you’ll find more than 250 titles from Universal dating back to the 1930s. Peacock has integrated movie ratings from Rotten Tomatoes to help you choose which films to watch. However, you won’t find every movie Universal has made since Peacock rotates titles in and out of its library.
Some of the classic films in the Peacock collection include a dozen Alfred Hitchcock movies from 1942’s Saboteur to the 1972 film Frenzy. One of the earliest films in the Peacock catalog is the 1930 classic All Quiet on the Western Front.
2-Headed Shark Attack is a classic of a different sort. You’ll find movies made for NBCUniversal’s cable channels in this section as well.
More recent titles include Chase, The Outcasts, and Ashes in the Snow.
Kids programming includes family-friendly movies and TV shows. You’ll find classic and modern animations like Woody Woodpecker, Curious George and Baby Einstein.
Live-action kids shows include reality programs like American Ninja Warrior Junior and Get Out of My Room.
The News section provides on-demand clips from NBC’s various news networks. The Top Headlines section lets you get quick bites of recent news reports. You get on-demand access to popular news shows like Today, Morning Joe and Mad Money with Jim Cramer. You’ll also find E! News’ reports from the entertainment industry.
The content you’ll find in the Sports section is probably not what Peacock envisioned during the planning stages. With every sports league around the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, there isn’t enough sports content to fill the library. Instead, you’ll find highlight reels and documentaries produced by NBC Sports and its other sports channels.
The Sports section also organizes content by sport, but only the sports Peacock chooses. Even though the NFL is in the off-season, you’ll find a Football section, But you won’t see a Baseball section and there’s no way to search for baseball content.
Latino content includes popular shows from NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo such as the reality show Larrymania. Telemundo’s dramas include 100 Días para Enamoramos, La Doña and Preso No. 1.
Telemundo’s sports and news operations also contribute content to the Peacock library. You’ll find clips of recent news reports in collections featuring news, sports, and entertainment.
The Account section lets you change a handful of settings in the Peacock app. Since security and parental control features, as well as subscriptions, are applied globally across all devices, you’ll have to log into the Peacock website to change those.
You have several settings you can change on the Peacock site. You can turn off Peacock’s email notifications, although you’ll still get emails about your account. Enhanced security, which is off by default, requires you to confirm your identity before changing personal information. Finally, you can create a PIN to activate Peacock’s parental control system.
Peacock Stream Quality
Even with the huge demand being placed on residential broadband, Peacock’s streaming quality was consistently good with no noticeable degradation in image quality or dropped frames.
Every once in a while, the stream did pause for buffering when a show or video clip first started. The handoff from a TV episode to the advertising system also stuttered a bit but this did not interfere with the overall experience.
Video and Audio Formats
Peacock supports Dolby surround sound and streams in either HD or 4K Ultra HD resolution. Of course, your experience will depend on the capabilities of your entertainment system.
Older on-demand content may only be available in HD. Livestreams from NBC’s news and sports operations will come across in either 720p or 1080p HD resolution.
Peacock Device Support
Peacock’s early release is only available to Xfinity cable broadband subscribers who have Xfinity-provided hardware. People who rent Xfinity’s X1 wireless cable gateway already have the equipment they need. The Peacock app should already appear in the X1’s streaming media interface. People who have their own cable modem can get a free Xfinity Flex device. Based on Android TV with a custom Xfinity user interface, the Flex supports Netflix and other streaming apps in addition to Peacock.
NBCUniversal has not announced which streaming devices they will support when the nationwide rollout begins in July. All they have said is that Peacock will work “across a variety of platforms.” Looking back at past streaming service launches, Peacock could follow one of two approaches.
YouTube TV, Quibi and Philo went to market as mobile-first streaming platforms. They assumed Millennial and Gen-Z digital natives weren’t tied into the more traditional TV experience. They were wrong. As it turns out, the preferred device across all generations for watching TV content is the TV. Within months of their launches, both YouTubeTV and Philo began rolling out apps on TV-attached devices.
The other approach is the one Disney+ took. That streaming service launched with apps on all of the major streaming platforms.
Peacock Simultaneous Streaming
Your family will be able to use Peacock with up to three devices at the same time.
Peacock Offline Viewing
At launch, Peacock does not let you download content for offline viewing.
Peacock Customer Support
Peacock’s support site has a detailed Help Center with answers to most general questions. You can also contact Peacock’s support staff directly through online chat. Peacock does not offer telephone support.
How to Cancel Peacock
People who subscribe to Peacock directly can cancel their Peacock subscriptions by logging into the Peacock website. The Plans & Payments section of the My Account screen has an option for canceling the current plan.
If you subscribe through an app on iOS, Android, Roku or Fire TV, then you will need to cancel your subscription through that app store.
Peacock Refund Policy
You won’t get a refund when you cancel your Peacock subscription. Your access will continue until the end of the current billing period.
Cord-cutting used to be easy, but the proliferation of streaming services now forces families to make hard choices about what content is worth paying for. Peacock won’t make those choices any easier. The NBCUniversal catalog contains so many popular shows and movies that Peacock can’t be ignored. Combine that catalog with low-cost subscription plans and you have a very compelling choice for a family streamer.
At the same time, all of those $5-$10 streaming services with great content quickly add up. That may be one reason why Peacock will let people access some of its content free of charge.
Looked at in isolation, Peacock is a great streaming service. But you really need to want the content Peacock offers to make a full commitment. You might be better off placing Peacock in rotation with services like Disney+, CBS All Access. Watch the new content, cancel the subscription and then resubscribe when there’s enough new content to watch again.