Peacock Premium pales in comparison to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, but the huge library of free movies and shows is still worth a look

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Peacock Comcast NBCUniversal
Today Show anchor Al Roker activates an installation advertising Peacock outside of NBC’s New York City headquarters.
Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
  • Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new on-demand streaming service, launched nationwide on July 15.
  • The platform combines hundreds of classic movies from Universal with even more shows from NBC, like “30 Rock,” “Parks & Recreation,” and “Saturday Night Live.”
  • More than 13,000 hours worth of movies and shows are available for free with ads on Peacock, and a $4.99 a month Peacock Premium subscription will get you access to exclusive content.
  • For those who can’t stand commercials, Peacock Premium Plus removes most ads for $9.99 per month.
  • The free library is certainly appealing, but a Peacock Premium subscription doesn’t offer as much value as other on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Peacock debuted nationwide on July 15, bringing another choice to a crowded field of on-demand streaming services that has seen newcomers, like Disney Plus and HBO Max, working to compete with established services, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Launched by NBCUniversal, Peacock relies on a freemium model for on-demand streaming, offering a mix of TV shows, movies, and live sports for free with ads. Peacock Premium gives subscribers access to exclusive content and a significantly larger back catalog of NBC shows, like “Law & Order,” for $4.99 a month. With that said, Peacock Premium still relies on ads to generate revenue. To go ad-free, you need to sign up for a Peacock Premium Plus subscription for $9.99 a month.

Peacock’s subscription model is similar to what Hulu employed until 2016, allowing viewers to watch 13,000 hours worth of programming for free with ads. Viewers who want to catch up on NBC shows, like “30 Rock” or “Saturday Night Live,” can mostly do so without a premium subscription, though a handful of classics, like the original “Law & Order” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” require a paid account.

Peacock’s large library of free content is enticing and NBC has promised to limit commercials to five minutes at most per hour of streaming. However, Peacock Premium lacks the value offered by streaming competitors like Netflix and Hulu, and there are some major gaps in NBCUniversal’s catalog.

Peacock review: Peacock gives NBC its own streaming home, but key Universal movies are missing

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Universal’s “Fast & Furious” franchise won’t be on Peacock for months due to prior contracts.
Universal Studios

Peacock’s library is primarily anchored by NBC TV series like “30 Rock,” “Law & Order SVU,” and “Will & Grace.” Notably missing is “The Office,” which will become exclusive to Peacock in January 2021.

New episodes of NBC’s current primetime series are available on Peacock one day after they air on TV, along with content from live programs like “The Today Show,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and “Late Night With Seth Myers.”

“Downton Abbey,” “Pawn Stars,” and “Ray Donovan” lead a handful of popular series from other networks that have also made their way to Peacock. Peacock’s catalog features about a dozen exclusive series, movies, and documentaries, that can only be viewed on Peacock, including Dale Earnhardt Jr’s documentary series “Lost Speedways,” and “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,” a new movie continuing the hit USA mystery series.

Peacock hosts hundreds of movies from Universal Pictures, but many of the studio’s recent releases are absent due to prior agreements with HBO and FX. Several key Universal franchises, including “Fast & Furious” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” are already available on competing streaming services (HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video, respectively) but it’s unclear how long it will be until they arrive on Peacock.

Instead, Peacock offers decades worth of classics spanning the work of Alfred Hitchcock to 2013’s “Lone Survivor.” Peacock has promised that new and upcoming Universal movies, like “Boss Baby 2” and “Trolls World Tour,” will eventually appear on Peacock as well, and future Universal releases won’t be contracted to other services.

Peacock will feature films from other studios, like “American Psycho,” “Reservoir Dogs,” and “The Mummy,” on a rotating basis, but with popular movies like “The Matrix” and “Jurassic Park” scheduled to leave the service just two weeks after its launch, it’s hard to feel confident about what will remain in the library long term.

Sports fans who don’t have access to NBC Sports through their television can use Peacock to watch live Premier League matches and other events, including the 2021 Olympics.

Peacock’s “freemium” model offers a different kind of value

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Peacock is touting 15,000 hours of on-demand content at launch.
Peacock

Unlike Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, anyone can watch thousands of hours worth of movies and shows on Peacock for free with ads. A Peacock Premium subscription will get you access to more episodes from Peacock original shows, and more classic series and movies for $4.99 per month. The ad-free version of Peacock costs $9.99 per month and includes the premium content without commercials.

If you’re a Comcast or Xfinity cable customer you can get Peacock Premium for free by creating an account and logging in with your cable provider.

Peacock’s premium content currently pales in comparison to services like Netflix and Hulu, especially when you consider the thousands of hours worth of free content that’s already available.

Die-hard fans may be willing to pay a monthly fee to watch “Two and a Half Men” or “Shrek,” but the Premium subscription won’t offer much value until more exclusive shows and anticipated classic series, like “The Office,” appear on the platform, and even then it’s not clear which upcoming additions will require a subscription.

Peacock’s interface works well enough, but it’s lacking common features from other streaming services

Peacock Premium offerings
These are the shows and movies that require a Peacock premium subscription.
Peacock

Peacock’s layout and functionality meet the minimum expectations for an on-demand streaming service — movies and shows are separated by category and users can create a watchlist of their favorites.

Peacock lacks the option to create separate profiles for different viewers and has no parental controls, meaning parents will have to manage their children’s engagement with the app when watching shows like “Curious George.” Other missing ease of use features, like a “Play from Beginning” button and caption size, would certainly be welcome too.

Ads on the free plan are mostly non-intrusive and NBCUniversal has promised no more than five minutes of commercials per hour you spend watching Peacock. The service also has a built-in feature to prevent the same ads from playing during every commercial break.

Peacock is available on most devices, except for Roku and Amazon Fire TV

Watching TV streaming app smartphone Roku HBO Go

Maskot/Getty Images

Peacock’s streaming app is available on Vizio and LG smart TVs, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices, Android TV, Xbox One, and Chromecast. The service is also available through its official website, PeacockTV.com.

The Peacock app is currently unavailable on Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices. You can browse a full list of supported devices here.

Peacock doesn’t offer support for 4K, HDR video, or Dolby Atmos sound. This is disappointing since all of these features are offered by Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video.

The bottom line

Peacock’s huge library of free content is appealing, but the lack of recent movies and the limits of NBC’s catalog make Peacock Premium seem like an unnecessary expense. Longtime fans of the NBC shows will be satisfied with their new streaming home but Peacock doesn’t feel like much of a competitor to Netflix, Hulu, or even the recently launched HBO Max.

Perhaps Peacock Premium will offer more value when “The Office” and Universal’s new slate of movies arrive on the service in 2021, but until then, it’s another addition to the increasingly crowded dashboard on my Smart TV, and yet another constantly changing streaming library I’ll have to keep track of.

Pros: Tons of movies and shows available for free with commercials, commercials are limited to five minutes per hour watching, lots of classic films

Cons: Premium offerings aren’t very exciting, $4.99 subscription plan still has ads, missing a bunch of popular Universal movies released between 2013 and 2019, it’s unclear how often popular franchises will leave or be added to Peacock

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