NBCUniversal wades into streaming wars with Peacock

Meg James, Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service debuted nationwide Wednesday, betting that weary consumers will tolerate a few commercials in exchange for a low-priced offering that includes news, sports and thousands of hours of TV shows.

The gambit sets the NBCUniversal's service apart from streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Those services have soared in popularity in recent years with edgy original shows, deep libraries of movies and TV classics -- and a lack of commercial interruptions.

But NBCUniversal and its parent, cable giant Comcast Corp., have little interest in encouraging more consumers to cut the cable cord. Its goal is to preserve traditional TV economics by replicating the very features that keep tens of millions of consumers still watching network TV and paying their monthly cable bills.

"Peacock is the manifestation of the next version of broadcast TV," Matt Strauss, chairman of Peacock, said Tuesday. "We think Peacock is the tip of the spear for the next incarnation of NBC."

Just like the early days of TV, Peacock will be available free to millions of consumers, including 24 million homes at launch.

The New York media company's service will come in three tiers : a free option with 13,000 hours of video-on-demand programming and 20 themed channels, including ones for NBC News, E! News and Jimmy Fallon's "Fallon Tonight"; a $4.99 a month premium offering with channels and more than 20,000 hours of video-on-demand content; and a $9.99 a month commercial-free option.


While the premium service will have a handful of originals, it will draw on an expansive slate of shows produced for the company's linear channels, including NBC, Bravo, USA, Syfy, E! and Telemundo.

Peacock launched in a limited run in mid-April when it became available to Comcast's premium internet and pay-TV customers. The early preview gave executives insight into the features and programs most popular with consumers. The test run came in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when viewers binged on familiar "comfort food" shows.

But executives also discovered that more viewers than expected watched Peacock like they watch old-fashioned TV, by turning on a channel rather than searching for individual shows. So they opted to create more themed channels, to showcase NBCUniversal's strengths.

"So many streaming services are static: There is no sense of time or place, they are kind of like a casino," Strauss said. "But that's not how TV works. TV is social; it taps into culture and programming changes."


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