NBC Universal’s parent company Comcast tosses its hat into the streaming ring with its brand new service that offers users the chance to watch 13,000 hours of ad-supported programming for free.
That gimmick will be impossible to resist for many potential customers – something NBC is no doubt banking on, in spite of Peacock’s various launch snafus. However, if you want access to 20,000 hours of additional content including Peacock Originals, you’ll have to cough up $4.99 a month to access the Premium tier. And if you want a completely ad-free experience? That’ll cost you an additional $5, taking it up to $9.99 a month. So far, so understandable.
But what’s the content like? The two separate tiers (Free vs. Premium) determine what you’ve got access to, and at launch, the former packs in a fair amount. Both include all of NBC’s classic shows (Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, SNL, et. al), Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Dreamworks movies, while the paid tier includes a slate of new, Peacock-exclusive programming and the opportunity to watch next-day episodes of current season shows (some movies are gated off, too).
Considering Peacock dropped in preview mode back in April for Comcast Xfinity users to essentially trial the service, there’s a sizeable wedge of features sorely lacking. While Peacock Premium costs less than Netflix’s top tier, ditto HBO Max and Disney Plus, there is no option to pay extra for 4K or Dolby Atmos at time of writing. Mobile downloads and user profiles are also on the docket for future updates, but are sadly absent at launch. It's also missing apps for some key platforms at launch.
That being said, the options on Peacock’s free tier are not to be sniffed at, packing in a slew of must-see shows, and nice touches through its curated channels. If you’re happy to sit through ads – five minutes per hour – and aren’t a stickler for high-end formats, we’d recommend signing up for Peacock Free right away.
NBC Peacock price and availability
- Basic tier with ads is free
- Premium tier with extra content is $4.99 or free for eligible Xfinity and Cox subscribers
- Not streaming on Amazon or Roku
The big draw with Peacock is its most basic tier. No other premium streaming service offers a completely free option, which is what sets it apart from top-line competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Peacock instead models itself on the smaller streaming apps Crackle, Tubi, and Vudu Free by incorporating commercials. Premium content is kept behind a subscription paywall.
Here’s the breakdown of the pricing structure. Like with most streamers, users who sign up for Premium land a free seven-day trial, and those who register via Android can snag themselves a cheeky perk: that free trial extended to three months.
Of course, there are some who won’t need to pay at all. Comcast Xfinity Flex and F1 customers, and Cox Internet customers who subscribe to Contour TV Essentials with Contour Box with Voice Remote receive full access to the entire Peacock catalogue at no additional cost (with ads).
The Peacock app is available on Android TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, LG Smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TVs and Xbox One. Starting July 20, Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro joined that list. You can watch it through major desktop browsers, too, which might be the only saving grace for many.
Peacock sadly isn’t available for download via Amazon Fire or Roku, marking the second time in as many months that a new service has failed to broker deals with two of the biggest streamers, following HBO Max.
NBC Peacock app design and UI
- Recognizable app interface
- Redundant ‘trending’ option
- Useful title page information
Users familiar with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, HBO Max, etc. will feel right at home scrolling through Peacock. The app piggybacks on common knowledge of most other streaming apps, making it easy to dive right in.
The opening screen when accessed through an iPhone delivers you to 'Trending', one of three tabs that you can toggle via a static menu bottom of the screen. You can scroll down this tab for timely headlines. This newsy moments addition is reminiscent of Twitter, Instagram and Quibi, all mashed into one. This tab is the one element that’s superfluous. It feels like an attempt to integrate social media directly into the app, perhaps the reason why mobile versions open straight to this tab. It’s unfortunate, though, given that it’s the weakest component of the app.
The other two content options are Channels and Browse. Channels is arguably the most interesting element of Peacock’s app, as no other streaming service offers it. This renders a little like a TV guide you’d typically see on a television with one big exception: these aren’t live TV channels, they’re curated non-stop content cycles! Really love SNL skits? There’s a whole channel that plays them on repeat. Love classic, non-Netflix Unsolved Mysteries? Ditto. Fan of True Crime? You get the picture.
This is a simple addition, and it doesn’t feel groundbreaking, yet it oozes watchability. While it’s not fully-fleshed out, this area certainly has a unique quality that could be explored more in-depth into the future.
Next up is Browse. This section is the more traditional streaming interface that experienced users will find familiar, as it shows content in rows with subheadings, below a top menu and a main carousel banner at the top.
That top menu includes all on-demand library offerings mixed in with its live content: Featured, TV Shows, Movies, Kids, News, Sports, and Latino, are the separate headings. Tap each heading from the top menu to be taken to that subsequent category page, where you can scroll down for more subcategories. It’s simple, clean, and easy-to-use. You won’t find any surprises here.
Once you click on a title in any of the categories, it takes you to that title’s individual page, where you can add it to your watchlist, view the trailer, or scroll down to see other titles “You May Also Like”.
One annoying omission is the ability to add titles to your watchlist from the main menu. Neither the app nor browser allows you to hover over a title and add from that screen – you have to click further. It’s an extra step that other streaming services have removed. That would be a nice change in future updates.
Each entry displays the Rotten Tomatoes critic and audience score which is understandable, as NBC Universal owns two-thirds of Rotten Tomatoes. Also, the top movie category that appears is “Rotten Tomatoes approved”. Depending on your personal preference for the aggregate site, this might be helpful when deciding on what to watch, or an added annoyance.
Another helpful addition to each title’s is that it tells you how many days are left before it leaves the service. While it’s a smidge upsetting to see so many quality picks scheduled to exit (more on that below) this handy inclusion means you can prioritize your watchlist accordingly. (i.e – watch The Blair Witch Project now!)
NBC Peacock content library
- Scant offerings of Peacock Originals
- Great selection of full series TV shows
- Movie library is a little uninspired
It’s hard not to compare Peacock to HBO Max (read our review here), the most recent big streaming app to launch which bowled us over with its huge spread of diverse content. On an initial peruse, Peacock’s Premium slate seems less prolific. Odd, because Peacock offers content previously seen on TV networks like NBC, Bravo, USA Network, SyFy, Oxygen, E!, CNBC, MSNBC, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Universal Kids, A&E, ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, History, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and movie studios Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, ViacomCBS, Paramount, Lionsgate, Warner Bros. and Blumhouse. Phew.
Bearing that vast list in mind, Peacock’s not lacking in brand recognition. But it’s hard to spy the fruits of these labors when scrolling through the app for something to watch. The app’s geared toward drawing you into specific portions of its library such as a ton of top-notch shows from NBC’s back-catalogue which appear in their entirety, like Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Law and Order, Saturday Night Live, and Parenthood. Bigger staples such as The Office will appear in 2021 due to licensing rights timings.
On the main page of the app, Universal’s extensive monster movie collection and a Hitchcock selection receive their own sections, yet the rest of the movie categories might make you feel like you’ve hit 88mph in Doc Brown’s DeLorean. The carousel showcasing its best movies (at time of writing, week of launch) boasts The Bourne Identity, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Tully, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Shrek. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s little in the way of newer features that might be alluring for some subscribers.
Despite their appearance on most carousels throughout the app, there’s a mass exodus on the cards for many of those movie titles, anyway. The Jurassic Park and Matrix trilogies are already set to expire at the end of July. That’s within a month of its debut (granted, Peacock did its Comcast-only soft launch in April). Even stranger, perhaps, is Fast and Furious (2009), which dropped from the service 24 hours after its launch. Why? Overall, the movie selection feels a little lackluster.
The extra 7,000 hours of content from Free to Premium is harder to spot: what makes the $5 monthly boost worth the cost? Older classics like Frasier and Cheers are only available to paying subscribers (though a limited number of episodes are available on the free tier). The paid fee is also likely to cover the big budgets of Peacock’s original programming titles.
At launch, we’re offered ten Peacock Originals – TV series Brave New World, The Capture, Intelligence, Lost Speedways, Curious George, Where’s Waldo, Cleopatra in Space, and feature-length films Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, In Deep With Ryan Lochte, and Kamome. But that’s not stopping them from rolling out more later this year, as Peacock pledges to drop four more from its slated roster by September – A.P. Bio, Departure, Five Bedrooms, and Hitmen. Originals with no set debut date also includes reboots of ‘90s teen faves Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster, alongside Battlestar Galactica and Queer as Folk reworkings.
What really separates Peacock from its streaming competitors are the various options for viewing its content. This is where it shines!
TV shows and movies via its on-demand library aren’t the only choices for the paid tier, though. Premium users receive access to live sports, to 175 games in the 2020/2021 Premier League season (Free tier users meanwhile have access to 4 games), Tour de France coverage, and a reported 100+ hours of WWE content due to drop in August. Both free and premium users have access to live news channels as well – a big draw that no other streaming service offers in its basic package.
NBC Peacock quality and viewing experience
- No 4K, HDR or Dolby Atmos at launch
- Three devices can stream individually
- No mobile downloads or user profiles yet
Users viewing Peacock on a smartphone, tablet or smart TV without 4K/HDR capabilities, will likely be satisfied to watch in HD/SDR. But what if you’re used to forking out a little extra to make the content shine on your lush home set-up that’s stacked with 4K and HDR-primed gear? Netflix offers a $3 premium fee for the privilege of Ultra HD content, ratcheting up its monthly subscription to $16, where Amazon Prime includes most of its Prime Originals in 4K at no added cost.
You’ll be disappointed to hear that Peacock doesn’t offer any content in these higher-quality formats, and by the sounds of it, there aren’t any immediate plans to remedy that. Peacock’s official statement on 4K is that, while it’s not available now, “we’re always looking to spread our wings”.
For those who enjoy watching content offline, that’s also another area Peacock has yet to embrace, as mobile downloads are not an option right now. Similarly, user profiles, a mainstay of Netflix, Hulu, DisneyPlus, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime, are another missing feature. There is closed captioning available across the entire service, however, on all titles, and the option for three devices to stream simultaneously.
Should I subscribe to NBC Peacock?
You’re happy to sit through ads
NBC Peacock’s free tier is its winning feature. No other streaming service offers a cost-free experience. It’s this aspect of Peacock that’s likely to draw in millions of subscribers who aren’t fussed about ads popping up every now and again to interrupt their 13,000 hours of content.
The streaming content appeals to you
While its range of movie content feels a little subpar in comparison to its streaming competitors, Peacock’s packing a ton of full-length classic NBC TV series from its back catalogue. While its Peacock Originals have yet to really shine, there’s the promise of future winners set to drop before the end of the year.
You want a familiar streaming experience
Peacock doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with its app interface, choosing to instead utilize a familiar-looking way of showcasing its content. The app is easy to use and offers some nice touches.
Don't subscribe if…
4K options are a deal-breaker
$9.99 a month isn’t the most expensive streaming subscription, however, without 4K/HDR at time of launch and with no plans to add it for the time being, this may indeed sway your decision to sign up for premium.
You want a diverse, prolific range of content
There’s certainly a lot of content that’s “pretty good for saying it’s free.” When it comes to the Premium tier, the movie selection isn’t as diverse or alluring as its competitors, with a majority of big blockbusters titles already set to expire this month.
You’re hoping to watch on Amazon Fire or Roku
What? Did we go back in time a month? Nope. Much like HBO Max, the major access issue facing users at time of launch is device-related. NBC Peacock isn’t available to stream via Amazon’s Fire TV devices or any Roku streaming device.