Here’s a review of NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV streaming service that launched on Wednesday, July 15th with an ad-supported free version and two premium subscription plans. The service costs nothing to try (no credit card required) and offers a strong alternative to traditional cable television when in combination with other services.
Peacock’s free plan offers over 13,000 hours of programming while the premium plans provide about 20,00 hours of programming including access to Peacock Originals. The difference between the two premium plans is one costs $4.99 per month (with ads) and the other $9.99 per month (without ads). Comcast and Cox customers get access to the service as part of their subscription.
You get a lot with the free plan on Peacock, including live shows, sports and movies, but you’ll also notice quite a bit of content that is locked. For example, Peacock Originals are only available with premium plans. And, you’ll have to wait longer for current shows to be available. With the free plan, previous episodes of shows like America’s Got Talent and The Titan Games are available, but not the most recent. When browsing the shows you’ll see premium content indicated by a little feather icon in the corner of the title’s thumbnail image.
Premium plans unlock everything, adding over 7,000 hours of content to the 13,000 hours that’s already available free of charge. More recent content is available too. For example, you can watch current episodes of America’s Got Talent and The Titan Games the next day after airing on traditional TV. Premium plans also give you access to Peacock Originals with shows like Brave New World, The Capture, and Intelligence.
There are plenty of movies to choose including blockbuster titles from the Jurassic Park, The Matrix, The Mummy, and Bourne Identity franchises, as well as single title features like Do The Right Thing, Phantom Thread, and Tully.
Other movies such as Lone Survivor, Shrek, and titles from the Fast & Furious franchise are only available with a premium plan. Peacock also plays classic films like Rear Window (1954), Vertigo 1958), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
As it turns out though, some titles like Fast & Furious, Shrek, The Matrix trilogy, and Jurassic Park trilogy are all leaving the service by the end of July (per Variety). Fast & Furious actually left the day after Peacock launched to the masses (although the service had been available to Comcast Xfinity customers since April 15th).
Peacock flaunts its feathers with a full slate of new and classic TV shows to watch on-demand. You can stream episodes of Downton Abbey, Everybody Hates Chris, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Parks and Recreation, and Yellowstone all with the free version of Peacock. Older shows in the library include long-running episodes of Frasier, Leave it to Beaver, and Saved By The Bell, to name a few.
And as mentioned above, Peacock Originals such as Brave New World, The Capture, Intelligence, In Deep with Ryan Lochte, and Lost Speedways with Dale Earnhardt Jr. are available right away, with more originals coming soon.
Other categories of content include Kids, Latino, News, and Sports (where Peacock streams a lot of Premier League soccer matches).
Video / Audio Quality
The streaming quality of most of Peacock’s titles is exceptional, but the service does not tell you what resolution or audio format is available with each title, such as video resolution, HDR (if available), and audio format. The title description does provide Rotten Tomatoes scores, category (genre), year released, total runtime, and rating. Not all movies look that great though. For example, The Matrix, while recently having been remastered and released to 4k Blu-ray, looks more like upscaled SD with crunched black levels and mushy focus in many shots.
The interface for Peacock is fairly user friendly. And, it does not just look like other streaming services. The TV interface is very minimal with “Channels,” “Trending,” and “Browse” the only three options available (with the exception of “Search”). “Channels” lets you scroll through all the channels available in a vertical format. You might expect an almost endless scroll of channels like YouTube TV, but remember these are just channels and networks affiliated with NBCUniversal — not the entire TV spectrum. “Trending” provides a curated list of clipped content. And, “Browser” opens up to all the basic categories of content available such as Movies, TV Shows, Sports, etc.
Given the fact Peacock offers a free plan, the service does stand a chance of catching up with existing streaming platforms such as CBS All Access, HBO Max, and Hulu even in a crowded market. However, if you remember Hulu once had a free plan that ended in 2016 after about ten years when the service launched an ad-supported plan as an alternative to the commercial-free plan. How long will Peacock’s free plan last? Only time will tell.
Peacock has a user-friendly interface, which makes it easy to search through the various content offered. The curated “Featured” section gives you a quick look at some of the top content (likely determined by what Peacock curators want you to see and what is trending). And, soccer fans will likely flock to Peacock with all the matches available.
The loss of big movie titles like Fast & Furious, The Matrix trilogy, and the first three Jurassic Park films has got to hurt customer retention, but Peacock’s strong TV show archive should go a long way in keeping subscribers locked in while new Universal movies are added.
Peacock is a great alternative to traditional, expensive cable TV. But, it’s only one network. When combined with other services such as CBS All Access and HBO Max, cutting the cord becomes an even more viable solution. The only thing missing from Peacock is live streaming of current shows. This “next-day” access (even with premium plans) has got to end.