Millions of families got instant access to Peacock in 2020 thanks to a free rollout to Comcast’s Xfinity broadband customers. By the end of the year, Peacock was expected to have more than 30 million users. But with so many streaming options out there, are people willing to pay for Peacock’s subscription plans? Our in-depth Peacock review will help you decide how it fits into your streaming portfolio.
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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 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 COVID-19, 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 formally launched across the United States in mid-2020 with an ad-supported, freemium business model. A free subscription tier provides a limited selection of linear channels and on-demand content from the Peacock catalog. Getting access to everything Peacock has to offer requires the $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan. That still includes ads, but for another 5 bucks a month, the Premium Plus plan gives you an ad-free experience.
This ad-supported streaming service gives people a choice between free access to some of Peacock’s content or access to everything at $4.99/month. The streaming service hopes that its different approach to streaming can leverage NBC’s advertising infrastructure to generate revenue that other services can’t.
Peacock draws on NBCUniversal’s library of hit 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.
Peacock Pros and Cons
You can’t argue with free, but NBCUniversal’s library of content makes Peacock a compelling choice to go for at least the Premium plan.
- Free option
- Affordable monthly subscriptions
- Large catalog of popular content
- Mix of live and on-demand content
- Slow-loading interface
- Limited to NBC content
- Search function could be better
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 Pluto TV, Peacock uses a blend of advertising and subscriptions.
Peacock’s base plan is completely free, but users will have limited access to Peacock’s content catalog. They can watch Peacock’s “live” linear channels as well as a limited selection of on-demand content. For example, only the first two seasons of The Office will be accessible. But it’s free.
Peacock Premium is the subscription plan the company expects most people to get. Free to Xfinity broadband subscribers, Peacock Premium costs $4.99/month. 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 Plus. This subscription plan does not get you any additional content or better features. But it does remove most ads from Peacock’s content and lets you download select content for offline viewing.
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
Peacock offers a 7-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 trial of Peacock Premium+’s ad-free experience.
Peacock is following a strategy similar to Paramount+ 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.
Some of the popular originals created for the platform include Angelyne, Brave New World and Rutherford Falls. Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, a movie based on the popular TV series Psych, has a solid 7.3/10 rating on IMDb.
Peacock has also upped its reboot game, with new iterations of Battlestar Galactica, Queer as Folk, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell, as well as a Real Housewives “mashup”.
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, 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.
To get an idea of what kind of linear programming is available, Flixed created a channel guide to Peacock. Free to access from any browser, the Peacock guide lets you see what’s on now as well as a week or more in the future. The guide is also a handy tool for Peacock subscribers who want to see what else is on without leaving the fullscreen streaming experience.
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.
Peacock’s search has improved quite a lot since it launched. The main search bar now looks through not only titles but directors and actors as well. However, it would be nice to be able to search by year.
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 Browse section is Peacock’s on-demand catalog. The top menu lets you filter the catalog by 7 categories: Featured, Movies, TV Shows, Sports, WWE, News and My Stuff.
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 340+ 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 900+ 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.
You can create up to 6 profiles in your Peacock account with the option to make each one a kid profile, which opens into a kid-friendly content hub. 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 another area that’s improved a lot since launch. Like other categories, you’ll find carousels of content, starting with Live & Upcoming broadcasts. Below that you’ll find Latest Events, Highlights & News conveniently separated by sport.
After those, you’ll find Top Stories, Featured Channels, and live events for everything from soccer to horse racing to baseball. There are also content hubs for leagues and sports, such as MLB, USGA, Premier League and many more.
Peacock removed the Latino category from the top browse menu but the content is still there. There is now a Telemundo content hub that can be accessed from the “Featured Brands” carousel, and other Latino content can be found through search.
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.
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 currently supports 4K Ultra HD resolution on Apple TV and Roku devices. On other devices content streams at HD (1080p) quality. Select content is available to stream in Dolby Digital surround sound.
Older on-demand content may only be available in HD, regardless of your device. Livestreams from NBC’s news and sports operations will come across in either 720p or 1080p HD resolution.
When Peacock launched its preview to Xfinity broadband subscribers, it was only available on the cable provider’s proprietary streaming box. Once the streaming service launched nationwide, however, it was able to roll out apps to the most popular streaming platforms. Peacock is still trying to get onto Amazon’s Fire TV devices.
- Streaming devices: Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, NVIDIA Shield, Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Andoird TV, Hisense, LG, Samsung, Vizio
- Mobile devices and tablets: Android, iOS, Fire Tablets
- Game consoles: Microsoft Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, Sony PlayStation 4 and Playstation 5.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari.
- Cable set-top boxes: Cox, Xfinity
Peacock Simultaneous Streaming
Your family will be able to use Peacock with up to three devices at the same time.
Peacock Offline Viewing
You have to subscribe at the $9.99/month Premium Plus level in order to download content to the Peacock app.
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.
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 doesn’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.
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+ and Paramount+. Watch the new content, cancel the subscription and then resubscribe when there’s enough new content to watch again.