Pea­cock stream­ing ser­vice is free if you don’t mind ads

Premium paid sub­scribers get ear­lier ac­cess and more pro­gram­ming, can up­grade to ad-free.

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY + LIFE - Bill Keveney

At a time when view­ers are weigh­ing the cost of adding yet an­other stream­ing ser­vice, Pea­cock, from NBCUniver­sal par­ent Com­cast, ar­rives Wed­nes­day with a price that’s hard to beat: $0. The new free ser­vice, and a “premium” tier ($4.99 monthly) that launches with nearly 20,000 hours of pro­gram­ming, in­cludes com­mer­cials, though you can avoid them by pay­ing an ex­tra $5.

Launch­ing in a mar­ket al­ready crowded with services that rely on paid sub­scrip­tions, in­clud­ing Net­flix, Ama­zon, Hulu and re­cent ar­rivals Dis­ney+, Ap­ple TV+ and HBO Max, doesn’t faze Pea­cock chair­man Matt Strauss, who sees Pea­cock’s price struc­ture as an as­set.

“I think there’s this grow­ing sense of sub­scrip­tion fa­tigue, where you have all these choices, but you’re pay­ing for them all and they quickly add up,” he says. “We’re try­ing to ap­proach stream­ing in a dif­fer­ent way, the com­bi­na­tion of high-qual­ity pro­gram­ming that’s avail­able at a very af­ford­able price. There’s noth­ing more af­ford­able than free.”

The NBC con­nec­tion brings sports and news, two gen­res not avail­able on many stream­ing services. NBC News Mon­day an­nounced “TODAY All Day,” a new por­tal also avail­able on TODAY.com. Cur­rent and past sea­sons of Tele­mu­ndo shows are in­cluded on Pea­cock, too.

The stream­ing ser­vice has not re­vealed whether all or part of “The Office,” which Pea­cock gets ex­clu­sively in Jan­uary when its Net­flix deal ends, will be on the free or paid tier. An­other NBC fan fa­vorite, “Parks and Re­cre­ation” will be on the free tier in Oc­to­ber.

Pea­cock also will be the ex­clu­sive home for 1,000 episodes of Dick Wolf’s “Law & Or­der” and “Chicago” fran­chises.

Pea­cock’s roll­out was timed to launch in con­cert with NBC’s cov­er­age of the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics, now post­poned un­til next year by the COVID-19 pan­demic.

But a pan­demic-re­lated rise in stream­ing could partly com­pen­sate for the loss of the Olympic mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­nity, says Lisa Herd­man, se­nior vice pres­i­dent at ad firm RPA. She doesn’t think Pea­cock’s later ar­rival to stream­ing will be a prob­lem.

“Most stream­ing chan­nels of any sort of pedi­gree have a chance right now. (Stream­ing) view­er­ship is up,” she says. Pea­cock “has a cou­ple of things that are ben­e­fi­cial. It’s free and it has an arse­nal of (older) pro­gram­ming” at a time when many are nos­tal­gic.

Pea­cock isn’t im­mune to the ef­fects of the pro­duc­tion shut­down that has af­fected all TV and film pro­duc­tion. Re­makes of “Bat­tlestar Galac­tica,” “Saved By the Bell” and “Punky Brew­ster,” along with the pod­cast-based “Dr. Death” with Jamie Dor­nan and Alec Bald­win, won’t be avail­able at launch.

Where can view­ers get Pea­cock?

Since April, 15 mil­lion sub­scribers of Com­cast’s Xfin­ity and Flex cable and stream­ing services have re­ceived premium ac­cess at no ex­tra charge; Cox sub­scribers get that same deal start­ing Wed­nes­day. Strauss says fam­ily viewing was a big draw. “What we did find pretty early was that a lot of peo­ple who were shel­ter­ing in place were re­ally look­ing for com­fort-food tele­vi­sion,” he says.

Like HBO Max, Pea­cock is not yet avail­able on the two largest stream­ing plat­forms, Roku and Ama­zon Fire, but view­ers will be able to ac­cess it on Ap­ple devices, Mi­crosoft Xbox devices, Google plat­forms and devices and Vizio Smart­cast and LG smart TVs. Other op­tions in­clude the Pea­cock app or pea­cocktv.com.

So, what do you get for free?

The free tier will in­clude more than half the pro­gram­ming hours of the ser­vice.

As some are on Hulu, cur­rent NBC shows will be avail­able – a day af­ter broad­cast for premium sub­scribers; a week later for free – and view­ers can watch “30 Rock,” “Down­ton Abbey” and “Fri­day Night Lights.” The film li­brary in­cludes such clas­sics as “Juras­sic Park” and “E.T.”

“Satur­day Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Star­ring Jimmy Fal­lon” and “Late Night with Seth Mey­ers” will be avail­able, with clip-based chan­nels high­light­ing the best of Fal­lon, Mey­ers and the “SNL” vault.

Pea­cock re­lies heav­ily on the TV and film li­braries of NBCUniver­sal prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing NBC, USA, Syfy, E! and Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures and Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion. But it also ex­tends to non-ex­clu­sive pro­gram­ming from other stu­dios, in­clud­ing “Ev­ery­body Loves Ray­mond,” “Frasier” and “The Carol Bur­nett Show.”

“We didn’t call our­selves NBC Plus. We called our­selves Pea­cock. That’s partly be­cause we al­ways had an eye to­ward this big­ger ver­sion of how we want to ag­gre­gate con­tent, much broader than just NBCUniver­sal,” Strauss says.

What con­tent will premium sub­scribers get?

For $4.99, premium sub­scribers also re­ceive such pop­u­lar shows as “House” and “Yel­low­stone,” along with “Shrek” and “The Bourne Iden­tity.”

Pea­cock even­tu­ally plans to of­fer premium view­ers the chance to watch Fal­lon and Mey­ers hours ahead of their net­work slots, a move that has been de­layed due to the pan­demic’s ef­fects on pro­duc­tion.

At launch, most of the orig­i­nal se­ries will be avail­able ex­clu­sively on the premium tier, al­though se­lected orig­i­nals, such as “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,” will be free.

New shows in­clude:

• “In­tel­li­gence,” a com­edy star­ring se­ries cre­ator Nick Mo­hammed and “Friends” alum David Sch­wim­mer as a mis­matched pair of in­ves­ti­ga­tors whose un­likely part­ner­ship could threaten the fight against cy­ber ter­ror­ism.

• “Brave New World,” an adap­ta­tion of Al­dous Hux­ley’s clas­sic novel, imag­in­ing a utopian so­ci­ety where peace is guar­an­teed by pro­hibit­ing privacy, money, and his­tory. Demi Moore stars.

• “The Cap­ture,” a con­spir­acy thriller that con­sid­ers the con­tem­po­rary is­sues of fake news and allsee­ing in­tel­li­gence services. The cast in­cludes Ron Perl­man and Famke Janssen.

What’s avail­able in news and sports?

Pea­cock will fea­ture daily high­lights from NBC News and Tele­mu­ndo News, along with NBC News NOW and Sky News chan­nels.

On the sports side, premium sub­scribers will be able to watch more than 175 Pre­mier League soc­cer games dur­ing the 2020-21 sea­son; “In Deep with Ryan Lochte,” as the gold-medal-win­ning swim­mer seeks a re­turn to the Olympics at 35; and “Lost Speed­ways,” a look at for­got­ten race tracks hosted by Dale Earn­hardt Jr.

How about kids TV?

Pea­cock of­fers new, ex­clu­sive episodes of “Cu­ri­ous Ge­orge” and two Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion se­ries: “Where’s Waldo?” and “Cleopa­tra in Space.”

The li­brary in­cludes “Woody Wood­pecker,” “Sab­rina: The An­i­mated Se­ries,” “Fievel’s Amer­i­can Tails,” “Care Bears,” “New Adventures of He-Man,” “Big Fun Crafty” and “Baby Ein­stein Clas­sics.”

STEVE SCHOFIELD/PEA­COCK

Demi Moore plays Linda in Pea­cock’s “Brave New World,” based on the Al­dous Hux­ley novel.

COUR­TESY OF DREAM­WORKS AN­I­MA­TION

“Where’s Waldo” on Pea­cock fea­tures Waldo, left, and his best friend, Wenda.

COUR­TESY OF SKY UK

Nick Mo­hammed, left, and David Sch­wim­mer star in Pea­cock’s “In­tel­li­gence.”

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