I don’t know about you, but I’ve maxed out my capacity to care about late-to-the-party streaming services. New rollouts have debuted at a breakneck clip in the last year, leaving us with a dizzying number of subscription streaming options—many of which, to be frank, aren’t worth any amount of money. But with its fresh-faced streaming service Peacock, NBCUniversal has created the Netflix rival others have tried (and failed) to produce.
Peacock is an easy-to-use, binge-worthy service that offers a free tier with plenty of high-quality content, in addition to premium tiers, one of which is a totally ad-free option. One of the best things about the new service is the fact that it leaves the overall experience up to the user. The free tier offers roughly half of the 20,000 hours of content that premium users will get for $5 (ad-supported) or $10 (ad-free), respectively. All three tiers will have access to the current seasons of NBCUniversal series as well as live news and sports channels.
The key difference between free and premium is access to next-day episodes of current seasons and originals (the free tier will get new episodes after a week’s delay and will only have access to previews of originals). The free tier is where NBCUniversal will likely see the majority of its subscribers—assuming they don’t mind advertisements—at least at first, given the number of services we’re all currently subscribed to already.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was wary of yet another media conglomerate streaming service prior to Peacock’s launch, given the 12,000 others we now have to choose from. After a couple of days with the service, though, I was ready to pony up for the $10 premium tier, having seen only some of Peacock’s originals—I loved the content selection and enjoy ad-free viewing that much. The ads are, to be fair, relatively limited. A spokesperson said the ads amount to no more than five minutes per hour on both the free and the ad-supported premium tier.
But let’s get down to the content. Peacock is a binge-watcher’s paradise. Many of the titles that were previously among the most-streamed series on rival services prior to Peacock’s launch—including shows like Law & Order: SVU, Parks and Recreation, This Is Us—are now exclusively on Peacock. (Down the line, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Office will also be Peacock exclusives). These are older shows, sure, but they dominated streaming services like Hulu and Netflix when they were still being licensed. Now, these shows will live on NBCUniversal’s service alongside its considerable catalog of series, movies, sports, and later, originals, which will include a Real Housewives spinoff, a limited series on notorious neurosurgeon Dr. Death, and a Battlestar Galactica reboot.
The service is debuting nine originals at launch today, which are airing all at once, though a spokesperson told Gizmodo that could change on a series-by-series basis. I haven’t yet finished them as of launch day, but I did enjoy what I watched of the sci-fi joint Brave New World, in part simply because it was beautiful to watch (admittedly one of the reasons I also enjoyed Hulu’s Devs). Reviews for Peacock’s originals have been mixed, so your mileage may vary if newer shows are fairly high up on your streaming priority checklist. Personally? I prefer a good mix of quality content with a little bit of everything, and if that sounds like you, you’ll likely enjoy Peacock as much as I did.
Like Disney, which launched its own successful service last year, NBCUniversal has an incredibly large backlog of beloved content to make up the foundation of its service. That was not the case for, say, Apple TV+ or Quibi. TV is really where Peacock shines, though its movie selection has its gems as well. I found myself lingering in its Documentary and Cult Corner sections, as well as its designated Hitchcock hub. But there’s really something for everyone here, which makes its free tier pretty compelling (if for no other reason than the first twelve seasons of the original Unsolved Mysteries with true crime daddy Robert Stack are available—you’re welcome).
I also had zero trouble figuring out how to toggle between the on-demand, live and continuous TV, and browse tabs, which is something that can’t be said for many other streaming platforms! More episodes of a series can be found directly from the watch screen, with an easy-to-navigate menu of a season’s episodes and their synopses appearing directly to the right of the list of seasons. This felt far more intuitive on Apple TV than a service like Hulu does, which, while stylistically far flashier, uses a line-navigation layout that can be frustrating to use. Similarly, Peacock was very easy to use on a phone, due to its no-fuss, straightforward design.
Peacock also swipes some of the best streaming features from other services for its own: Peacock Picks (featured content), continue watching, and coming soon sections all appear up top under the Browse tab, making highly requested tools from other streaming services available to Peacock users straight out of the gate. It also supports TV casting, which is never a bad feature to offer immediately. Its trending section hadn’t quite figured out its purpose as of launch day, but it’s possible that’ll work itself out with more time and user feedback.
But where it’s made some coveted tools immediately available, other notable features were missing at launch. Offline downloads aren’t supported, for one, though a spokesperson told Gizmodo they are on the product roadmap. The same also goes for multiple user profiles and missing support for 4K and UHD streaming—the latter of which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker but isn’t ideal considering it’s offered by most other major streaming services.
There’s also the issue of support. Peacock is available on Apple and Android devices, as well as on Xbox, Vizio and LG smart TVs, and PS4 shortly after launch (beginning the week of July 20). But the service isn’t available to Amazon or Roku users, which was also a major annoyance for eager cord-cutters when HBO Max launched in May without support for these platforms. That’s a considerable number of users who won’t have access to the service at launch, and the companies seemed no closer to reaching a resolution as of Wednesday. (A spokesperson would say only that NBCUniversal was in talks with other distribution partners.)
Still, it’s impossible to beat Peacock’s price of exactly zero dollars at its entry-level tier, and I’d argue that makes it one of the most compelling services to launch this year. It essentially pulls some of the best parts from tried-and-true streaming titans and smashes them together to create a surprisingly successful streaming Frankenstein. I didn’t expect to love Peacock, but I do—maybe even enough to finally give my Netflix subscription the boot.
- Peacock is home to all of NBCUniversal’s massive catalog, plus some live TV and sports, as well as originals.
- It’s dirt cheap—free for its entry-level tier and $5 per month to get the originals. You can pay $10 per month to go completely ad-free.
- Originals seem to be getting mixed reviews, but the backlog of fan favorites alone makes the service a steal for next to nothing.
- The service is still missing some coveted features at launch—like offline downloads, 4K and UHD streaming, and multi-user accounts—though a spokesperson said those are on the product roadmap.