Joan E. Solsman | CNET.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
Peacock TV streams free movies and TV shows, but to unlock everything — including all of The Office, Premier League, Yellowstone and WWE — you have to pay.
Peacock is NBCUniversal’s streaming app with tens of thousands of hours of free programming, plus more shows, movies, sports and originals if you pay. Paying members — and only paying members — get access to everything on the service, including all nine seasons of The Office, plus extended episodes with deleted scenes from two seasons; more than 175 Premier League soccer matches; newer movies like Trolls World Tour; cowboy drama Yellowstone; and everything WWE.
But Peacock’s free tier will stream the bulk of programming of the Tokyo Olympics.
Peacock, from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, was one of a flood of new streaming services from tech and media giants that launched over the last year and a half. Competitors include other new services like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus (the revamp of CBS All Access) and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, as well as vets like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
But Peacock is unusual among these rivals in that it has a free tier. It’s also unusual among the crop of new services in that it’ll have live sports and news; most of the newest streaming services are focused squarely on video-on-demand entertainment along the lines of Netflix. Other differences: Peacock has “channels” of TV, but these aren’t livestreams of its networks. Instead, they’re curated feeds of shorter programming or full episodes, organized around themes. One channel, for example, is Today All Day, which mixes clips from NBC’s Today show with original segments for Peacock by the show’s hosts. Other channels are based on The Office, SNL and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, all stocked with clips, or things like the Tonight Show, True Crime or Bob Ross, with full episodes.
So is Peacock worth paying for? All the finer details are below, but basically: Thanks to the free tier, it doesn’t cost anything to try it out for yourself. If you really want to watch all of The Office or any of its other paywalled shows or movies, if you’re a WWE Network subscriber who wants to continue to access all that programming, or if Netflix has spoiled you into hating ads, paying for Peacock may be worth it for you.
What does Peacock cost?
Peacock has three tiers: a limited one that’s free, an all-inclusive one that’s $5 a month with ads, and an all-inclusive one that’s $10 a month without ads.
The free tier limits how much you can watch. For example, Peacock offers only select episodes of its originals free, withholding the rest inside its paywall. Free accounts can watch the first two seasons of The Office but no more. This limited free tier has access to roughly two-thirds of Peacock’s total catalog of movies, current season TV, TV classics, curated daily news, sports, Hispanic programming and curated channels.
The paid tiers are basically an all-access pass to the full catalog on the service. That means about 20,000 hours of content. Peacock Premium is $5 a month or $50 a year with advertising, or you can upgrade to Peacock Premium Plus for ad-free viewing at $10 a month or $100 a year (this tier is also the only one that lets you download to watch offline). Peacock offers a standard seven-day free trial for new signups to either of the paid tiers.
The tiers with advertising are supposed to have no more than five minutes of commercials per hour.
What deals does Peacock offer?
Some people can score discounts that cut the cost of Peacock if they’re already customers of certain cable companies. Peacock gives Comcast X1 and Flex subscribers the paid versions of the service at a $5 discount. So if they want to watch with advertising, they pay nothing for Peacock Premium; if they want to watch ad-free, they need to pay $5 a month for Premium Plus.
Cox customers also get that $5-off deal. Peacock has said it’s working on partnerships to offer this discount to a wider array of consumers.
In January, NBCUniversal said that it reached a deal with cable company Charter Communications for Spectrum video and broadband customers to get an extended free trial to Peacock. Those offers haven’t begun yet.
The pricing at Peacock’s competition runs the gamut.
Among the services that have ad-supported options, Hulu is $6 a month with ads and $12 a month ad-free. CBS All Access charges $6 for its tier with advertising, and $10 for the ad-free version.
By comparison, Netflix, which has no ads, offers its cheapest tier at $9 a month, while its most popular plan is $14. Apple TV Plus is $5 a month, Disney Plus is $7 a month, and HBO Max is $15 a month. None of them includes advertising.
And none of these competitors — whether with ads or without — offers a free tier like Peacock’s.
What’s up with WWE on Peacock? What happens if I used to subscribe to the standalone WWE service?
Starting March 18, Peacock began rolling out WWE programming just before Fastlane, the first WWE “pay-per-view” event streaming on Peacock. (All so-called pay-per-view WWE events are available to Peacock premium subscribers at no added cost.)
WWE Network’s standalone streaming app continued to work until early April. But now subscribers need to sign up for Peacock to be able to keep watching WWE Network content. The upside to this change is that now WWE Network, including all “pay-per-view” events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $5 — that’s half the price of the WWE Network’s service. Peacock’s $10-a-month tier will be able to access all the same WWE programming; the only difference is the priciest tier strips out advertising.
Peacock has a dedicated WWE page to browse and stream every “pay-per-view” event in the last calendar year; current or most recent season episodes of WWE original series Steve Austin’s The Broken Skull Sessions, WWE Chronicle and WWE Icons; new weekly episodes of NXT the day after air, as well as the 2021 replays of RAW and SmackDown 30 days after they air; documentaries including Undertaker: The Last Ride, WWE 24 and WWE Untold; reality series including Total Bellas; and collections of featured series, topical moments like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Week and playlists showcasing current Superstars.
Peacock said it will continually add WWE Network content to the library, making the entire WWE Network archive — including every WWE, WCW and ECW PPV event in history — is available to stream on demand before SummerSlam in August. Peacock Premium will be home to all upcoming pay-per-view events and the current seasons of WWE Original shows.
On the free tier, Peacock will also offer a new WWE “channel”; select WWE Original shows; reality shows like Miz and Mrs., Total Bellas and Total Divas; recent in-ring content; and new weekly episodes of select live shows like RAW Talk and The Bump, both live and on demand.
What devices support Peacock?
Peacock is available on the web at peacocktv.com, and it’s supported on:
- Apple devices like iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD.
- Google devices including Android phones and tablets, and Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices.
- Xbox One consoles.
- Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles.
- Vizio SmartCast TVs.
- LG Smart TVs.
- Roku devices.
- Amazon Fire TV
To check the exact models that support Peacock, check the service’s support page.
What product features does Peacock have?
Up to three devices can stream Peacock simultaneously from a single account.
Peacock won’t require accounts to register devices with the service, nor will it limit the number of devices a single account can use to stream.
Peacock won’t support high-end formats like 4K resolution, high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound at launch, but they’re on the roadmap to be added.
It won’t support profiles yet, a feature that typically allows for various members of a household to keep their viewing and recommendations separate. That feature is also on the roadmap, Peacock said.
Parental controls are managed by a PIN.
Mobile downloads are available for those who subscribe to its top tier, Premium Plus.
The app’s user interface will be in English only. The programming on Peacock will support any language audio or subtitles tracks that come with a specific title. At launch, it’ll have some content with Spanish language tracks and subtitles.
What’s up with that name?
Peacock is a nod to NBC’s longtime logo and mascot. Strauss said that calling the service Peacock was meant as an homage to NBC, but he stressed that the service is licensing lots of non-NBC content too.
“We did not call this service NBC Plus. We called it Peacock. In many ways, that was by design,” he said. “Pay homage to NBCUniversal but not be limited to just NBCUniversal content.”
At the service’s unveiling in January, writer, producer and actress Tina Fey said she originally wanted the title of 30 Rock to be The Peacock. “I was told it was a hard ‘no,’ and that it would not pass the censors,” she said. “And here we are.”
When did it launch? When will it expand outside the US?
NBCUniversal launched a “preview” of Peacock’s streaming service April 15, 2020, for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable customers and its Flex streaming customers. Peacock launched for everyone else in the US in July.
International expansion will come, Peacock has said, but it hasn’t specified a timeline.
What happens to NBC programming on Hulu?
For now, NBC’s shows will keep streaming on Hulu.
The Office started streaming on Peacock at the beginning of 2021.
NBC was a partner in Hulu for years, but NBCUniversal-owner Comcast struck a deal with Disney to give Disney full Hulu control last year. That deal included terms that essentially allow NBC to have programming stream both on Hulu and on Peacock at the same time.
NBCUniversal can start pulling its programming off Hulu starting this year, and by 2022 it has the right (but not the obligation) to cancel most of its content-licensing agreements with Hulu, Variety reported.
“It’s too early to tell” whether NBC will want to go that route yet, NBCUniversal Chairman Steve Burke said at the presentation unveiling Peacock in early 2020.
Shows and movies: What’s available to watch on Peacock?
The company has said Peacock Premium has more than 20,000 hours of content available; roughly two-thirds of it will be available on the free, ad-supported tier.
Now that the service is live with a free tier, the easiest way to get a sense of what’s on Peacock is to browse the service itself, although you’ll need to register an account with an email address to do so. If you don’t want to hand over an email, you can also check third-party sites like Reelgood, which track streaming services’ catalogs, to get a sense of what’s available to watch.
Generally speaking, the service’s programming leans into NBCUniversal’s back catalog and its franchises, but there are a couple of complexities there too. The Office, for example, is one of the top items in Peacock’s catalog.
But Peacock is also licensing programming from other companies. A deal with ViacomCBS, for example, will give Peacock full seasons of shows such as Ray Donovan at launch, as well as certain classic Paramount movies later on over the course of more than three years, such as The Godfather trilogy. It’ll also have past seasons of Yellowstone, a hit summer drama on the Paramount Network, as well as licensed shows from A+E, like Storage Wars.
Peacock’s free tier includes:
Next-day access to current seasons of NBC broadcast shows in their first season, known as freshmen series.
Next-week access (i.e., one week after episodes air) to current seasons of returning NBC broadcast shows.
Select episodes of marquee Peacock originals (but not full seasons).
Curated genre channels, which NBC has characterized as things like SNL Vault, Family Movie Night and Olympic Profiles.
Selections of classic series and popular movies.
Curated daily news and sports programming, including the Olympics.
With the Premium membership, you basically get an all-access pass. It includes everything on the free tier plus:
Full seasons of Peacock originals.
Next-day access to current seasons of returning NBC broadcast shows.
Early access to NBC’s late-night talk shows. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will stream early on Peacock and Late Night with Seth Meyers at 8 p.m. ET — but this perk will begin only when the shows return to in-studio production.
Full access to Peacock’s library of shows and movies.
Additional sports, like Premier League soccer.
Peacock also includes live programming, which originally was to include the now postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Select events from the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics will stream on Peacock on the free tier when the games occur.
Among other sports you’ll be able to watch on Peacock’s free tier, the service will have the US Open Championship, Women’s Open Championship and an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game. In addition, the free tier will have on-demand replays of events like the Triple Crown horse races, daily highlights from NBC Sports and hundreds of hours of sports series and docs.
Premium tier sports will include 175 live Premier League soccer matches in the 2020-21 season, coverage of elite cycling events like the Tour de France and La Vuelta, and more than 100 hours of WWE content, like WWE Untold, Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions and John Cena’s Best WrestleMania Matches.
By the end of 2021, NBCUniversal plans to dissolve NBC Sports Network, with some of its programming eventually ending up on Peacock.
As far as news programming, Peacock will draw from brands like NBC News, Sky News, MSNBC and CNBC. It’ll stream same-day broadcasts of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd; live news channels will include NBC News Now, Sky News and NBC/Sky Global News (a new channel); it’ll feature clips from Today, CNBC, MSNBC, E! News, NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press; and it’ll widen into original content from the Meet the Press franchise, investigative documentaries including full seasons of Dateline and Lock Up, and library documentaries from NBC News and CNBC.
For its originals, the company generally tends to rely on new series from talent with a long track record at NBC, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. It’s also betting on reboots of shows in its catalog with an enduring appeal. It’s already announced a revival of Battlestar Galactica (itself a reboot of the 1970s sci-fi series) by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail and reboots of Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell. According to Deadline, NBCUniversal hopes to make a reboot of The Office, which itself was a remake of a British series.
But not all Peacock’s original programming comes straight from NBCUniversal’s family tree. Some titles, like Brave New World, are fresh projects just for Peacock.
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