NBCUniversal is beginning the limited rollout of its Peacock streaming service today for customers of parent company Comcast, even though the coronavirus has indefinitely delayed production of original programming.
Peacock will still be able to reach more than 10 million Comcast subscribers, but its initial ambitions remain modest as it enters a market inundated by new streaming services in recent months. To counter this competition, Peacock will initially offer a distinctive model with free and ad-supported tiers.
Peacock’s arrival is the latest sign of an accelerating shift to on-demand streaming. This transition has gained momentum during the coronavirus lockdowns as time spent streaming video has soared.
In that sense, Peacock’s timing could be good. It follows by just over a week the arrival of mobile video streaming service Quibi, which reported 1.7 million downloads of its app during the first seven days.
Meanwhile, the Apple TV+ video streaming service, which launched last November, announced this week that it would expand free access to some of its premium originals for anyone with an Apple ID. And Disney+ said it had passed the 50 million subscriber milestone.
All of these streaming services are trying to catch up with subscription video streaming leaders like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. In their bid to compete, each contender is putting up a distinct business model in terms of content and pricing.
Apple has tried to jumpstart its service by offering a year free to buyers of new gadgets. Disney+ offers a free trial week before charging $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, while subscribers to Verizon Wireless unlimited plans receive a year for free. Quibi is counting on a partnership with T-Mobile to springboard its customer acquisition efforts.
Peacock, however, is offering one of the more convoluted propositions in recognition that it faces the delicate task of entering a new world while still trying to balance its traditional TV and cable models.
Initially free — with ads to a limited base — the service is slated to roll out nationwide on July 15. At that point, Comcast cable subscribers will be able to pay $5 per month for an ad-free version. For non-Comcast customers, the ad-supported service will cost $4.99 per month and the ad-free service $9.99.
There will also be a Peacock Free tier with ads and about half the service’s content. For now, it appears Peacock will only be available in North American markets, as much of its legacy content is tied up overseas in a thicket of deals that could take years to unwind.
Content includes some huge titles, including shows such as Parks and Recreation and Law & Order: SVU and its various late night shows. The movies include Shrek, Jurassic Park, and E.T. Viewers will have to wait until 2021 for The Office.
More problematic, Variety reports that work on many originals for Peacock has been pushed back until 2021. That probably won’t matter for the initial rollout this week, but it’s harder to predict how it will affect the broader launch this summer, which had been timed to benefit from marketing efforts around the now-delayed Olympics.
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