Monday , November 30 2020

Peacock: Everything to know about NBCUniversal’s streaming service

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NBCUniversal’s streaming app Peacock has free movies and TV shows, and it unlocks more if you pay. But you still can’t stream it on a Roku or Amazon Fire TV.

Peacock launched across the US on July 15. 

Peacock, a streaming app from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, launched last month across the US with thousands of hours of free programming, as well as extra shows, movies and originals if you’re willing to pay for a subscription. It has a seven-day free trial for those premium tiers, but if you sign up through a Google platform like Android, you can get as many as three months free. 

But, like HBO Max before it, you can’t watch Peacock on a Roku product or Amazon Fire TV device. Roku and Amazon are the most popular makers of devices to stream to televisions in the US. 

This standoff marks a new stage in the evolution of streaming video, one that puts people like you in the middle. Both sides want the most control over the data and money you generate with your streaming activity, as they carve out their positions of power for the next era of TV. But in the meantime, you can’t watch all the top streaming services on all the top devices. 

So far, Peacock has signed up 10 million accounts through about the end of July. That includes people who registered with Peacock when it rolled out just to Comcast pay-TV customers in April, as well as new members who’ve signed up since its national launch on July 15. 

By comparison, Disney Plus reported more than 10 million sign-ups in little more than 24 hours when it launched in November. HBO Max — the premium cable network’s newer, bigger app that rolled out at the end of May — signed up 4.1 million accounts in its first full month. 

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Competing with the likes of NetflixDisney Plus, HBO Max and others, Peacock is the last big new service going live in the flood of launches from tech and media giants over the last year. Technically, Peacock launched months ago in a limited “sneak peek” on April 15 for some Comcast customers. But the nationwide launch on widens the service to anyone in the US who wants to watch it, and Peacock’s first original shows and movies dropped then too. Peacock has a catalog of more than 20,000 hours of shows, movies, news, sports, curated channels, trending highlights and exclusive big-budget original programming. 

Peacock’s free tier, with about two-thirds of the catalog, is available to watch right away with advertising after you register an email and password. You can unlock the full library of shows and movies for a price — $4.99 a month for the full catalog plus ads and $9.99 a month to go ad-free. Peacock offers a standard seven-day free trial for its premium tiers, and, again, people who sign up on a Google platform like Android can snag an extended free trial. 

Read more: Hulu vs. Peacock: Which streaming service is best for you?

Peacock is also working on deals, like ones it already has with parent company Comcast and with Cox Communications, to bundle Peacock Premium with regular cable services as a no-added-cost perk. But up through launch, Peacock hadn’t secured many more of these deals to widen the premium perks. (Full details on deals, free trials and discounts for Peacock are below.)

Peacock’s free tier has popular TV shows like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, as well as movies like the Matrix trilogy, three of the Bourne moviesJurassic Park and more, many of them coming from Comcast’s Universal and DreamWorks Animation studios. But one of Peacock’s most anticipated titles, The Office, won’t be available until January.

Oddly, several high-profile movies on Peacock — like the Matrix trilogy, the Jurassic Park trilogy, Shrek and the only Fast & Furious movie available — were already set to disappear from the service soon after launch. A countdown warning shows how long some titles are set to remain on Peacock — and Jurassic Park movies, Matrix films and Shrek, as well as others, are listed as expiring at the end of the July. Fast & Furious, from 2009, was already gone one day after launch. 

Peacock said that it’s common for films to come and go on streaming services and that these titles should be be back again soon, without providing any specific dates. (The Jurassic Park movies, for example, are headed to Netflix.) The countdown timers appear in the app on some kinds of devices but not all. They’re visible in the iOS app but not on Apple TV. You can see them if you’re browsing Peacock on the web but not on the Android app. Peacock said the countdown indicators would be added to its apps across devices soon. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, several plans for Peacock‘s wider rollout were upended. Filming production of original programming largely shut down in March, and the plan to piggyback Peacock’s national launch on NBC’s live coverage of the summer Olympics is moot now that the games have been pushed back to 2021. 

Peacock has four more originals scheduled to debut through mid-September, and it has said it’s optimistic that its original Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell reboots will be available this year. But much of its original programming won’t materialize until later than planned. Not until 2021 will Peacock “arguably really be hitting its stride,” according to Matt Strauss, the executive in charge of Peacock. 

But the service did have nine original shows and movies to watch at launch. Peacock’s launch slate of originals available includes Brave New World, which is Peacock’s marquee sci-fi drama adapting Aldous Huxley’s novel, and a Psych movie sequel

Other popular titles at launch include Yellowstone, the Paramount network’s hit summer series, and Law & Order: SVU. Like the originals, all of these titles are on the premium level of Peacock, but all of them allow you to sample a few episodes free. In the case of Law & Order: SVU, you can sample more than two dozen episodes free, including the entire first season. And in the case of the Psych sequel, you can watch the full movie with advertising without signing up to a premium tier, even though it is an Peacock original and supposed to be behind the paywall.

Peacock is also licensing shows and movies from other companies. Its deal with ViacomCBS gives Peacock a handful of series that originally ran on CBS, Showtime, the CW and BET, plus (eventually) a list of movies from Paramount, including the Godfather trilogy. (See the end of this article for more details on the catalog.) 

Competitors include other new services like Disney PlusApple TV Plus, and WarnerMedia‘s HBO Max, as well as vets like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and CBS All Access. (Note: ViacomCBS is the parent company of CNET.)  

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, while most of the newest streaming services are focused squarely on video-on-demand catalogs along the lines of Netflix. 

Other differences: Peacock has “channels” of TV, but these aren’t live streams of its networks. Instead, they’re curated feeds of shorter programming or full episodes, organized around themes. One channel, for example, like 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 love NBC’s style of programming or you want even more big-name movies to stream — and especially if Netflix has spoiled you into hating ads — you may find yourself paying for yet another streaming service. 

Peacock has three tiers: a limited one that’s free, an all-inclusive one that’s $4.99 a month with ads and an all-inclusive one that’s $9.99 a month without ads. 

The free tier limits how much you can watch. For example, Peacock planned to offer only select episodes of its originals free, withholding the rest inside its paywall. 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. 

Both paid tiers are called Peacock Premium, basically an all-access pass to everything on the service. That means about 20,000 hours of content. Peacock Premium is $4.99 a month or $50 a year with advertising, or you can upgrade to an ad-free version for $9.99 a month or $100 a year. 

The tiers with advertising are supposed to have no more than five minutes of commercials per hour.

Peacock offers a standard seven-day free trial standard for any new signups to either premium tier. 

If you sign up for Peacock through its Android app or on Android TV, Peacock is offering an extended free trial. This free trial is for the ad-supported, $4.99 level of Peacock Premium. When your trial expires, you’ll be charged the normal $4.99-a-month rate. 

After registering an email address with Peacock while using an Android or Android TV device to open your account, Peacock will email you a promotion code to unlock your free period. The length of the free trial shrinks the longer you wait to sign up: 

Other people can score discounts that cut the cost of Peacock if they’re already customers of certain cable companies. Peacock will continue to give Comcast X1 and Flex subscribers the Premium version 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 $4.99 a month. 

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. 

These customers can also upgrade to watch Peacock ad-free by paying $5 a month. 

The pricing at Peacock’s competition runs the gamut. 

Among the services that have ad-supported options, Hulu is $5.99 a month with ads and $11.99 a month ad-free. CBS All Access charges $5.99 for its tier with advertising, and $9.99 for the ad-free version. And Quibi, a mobile-only subscription video service with an eye-popping lineup of stars, has set its monthly rate at $4.99 with ads and $7.99 ad-free.  

By comparison, Netflix, which has no ads, offers its cheapest tier at $8.99 a month, while its most popular plan is $12.99. Apple TV Plus is $4.99 a month, Disney Plus is $6.99 a month, and HBO Max is $14.99 a month. None of them includes advertising. 

But none of these competitors offers a free tier like Peacock’s.

Peacock is available on the web at peacocktv.com, and it has confirmed support on:

So far, Peacock doesn’t have a deal for its app to be distributed on Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices. 

Roku and Amazon Fire TV products, like its Firestick, are the most popular ways to stream on televisions in the US. Together, the two companies’ streaming devices and smart TVs make up 70% of all the streaming devices installed in the US last year, and they reach roughly 80 million active users between them. 

But rather than serving as neutral platforms for apps, Roku and Amazon both have become more assertive in their talks with new streaming services lately, and media companies are more invested in reaping the most reward possible from their products, leading to impasses. 

Peacock failing to launch with Roku and Fire TV is a repeat of HBO Max’s rollout in May. Failing to reach their own distribution deals, HBO Max is still missing from Roku and Fire TV more than a month after launch, with no news about progress since. 

“The Peacock app is ready to launch across platforms with the flip of a switch,” a Peacock spokeswoman said soon after launch. “We think it’s important for consumers to know that Peacock is free to use and free to any platform who wants to distribute it. If Peacock is not available on a platform at launch, it is not because we didn’t make it available, and it’s not because we didn’t make it available for free. Consumers have purchased these devices with the expectation they will be able to access all of the apps, so our hope is that all platforms will do right by their users and carry it.”

Roku said it wants to bring Peacock to its “large customer base of avid streamers” but that it was “disappointing” Comcast “refused reasonable and standard industry terms.” Roku said Peacock was trying to launch a service supported by advertising without sharing the ad model with its distribution partners. 

“This shows a basic misunderstanding of what drives success in today’s modern streaming world, where successful publishers collaborate on advertising and achieve strong results by leaning into the unique tools we offer,” Roku said in a statement. 

Amazon declined to comment. 

Here are some details on Peacock’s features.

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.”

NBCUniversal launched a “preview” of Peacock’s streaming service April 15 for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable customers and its Flex streaming customers. Peacock launched for everyone else in the US on Wednesday. 

International expansion will come, Peacock has said, but it didn’t specify a timeline.

Peacock’s launch comes near the tail end of a busy time for new streaming services. April brought the debut of Quibi, a mobile streaming service from Hollywood giant Jeffrey Katzenberg, which is focusing on bite-size films. HBO Max launched in the US at the end of May, and Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus both rolled out in November. 

For now, NBC’s shows will keep streaming on Hulu. 

The Office will start streaming on Peacock in 2021.

NBC was a partner in Hulu for years. But last year, NBCUniversal and Comcast struck a deal with Disney to give Disney full Hulu control. 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 next 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 January. 

The company has said Peacock Premium has about 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, you can get a sense of the catalog easily by browsing the service itself, although you’ll need to register an account with an email address to do so. 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 complexities there too. 

For one, The Office is one of the marquee shows that Peacock will stream, but the service doesn’t have The Office available at launch. Netflix has the rights to it until 2021; Peacock will start streaming it in January.

And 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: 

With the Premium membership, you basically get an all-access pass. It includes everything on the free tier plus: 

Peacock also includes live programming, which originally was to include the now postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Select events from the Toyko and Beijing Olympics will stream on Peacock when the games occur on the free tier.

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 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 coming in August, like WWE Untold, Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions and John Cena’s Best WrestleMania Matches.

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 Tiny 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. 

At launch, Peacock has nine total originals. The series will have all their episodes available at once to stream on a premium tier, a la Netflix. 

The launch originals are: 

The following are the originals in the pipeline for Peacock, but the timing of most of these projects is unclear.

Peacock will lean into Telemundo to reach Hispanic audiences with the streaming service, with more than thousands of hours of Telemundo’s programming. So far, the company has specified that this will include the original dramedy Armas de Mujer, a new series from the makers of La Reina del Sur, and popular library titles 100 Dias Para Volver, Betty in NY, El Barón and Preso No. 1.

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This Article was first published on cnet.com

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