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The Curious Case Of Peacock

Peacock, NBCU’s  new streaming service is due to launch tomorrow.

Kinda, sorta.

You see, it will be available to the approximately 20% of American households that subscribe to Comcast, which is not a national service. 

So that means that the remaining 80% of us, including everyone in large swaths of the country, will have to wait three more months until July 15th to actually be able to subscribe to the service.

This is curious because it means that any buzz that Peacock’s first (soft?) launch might generate will have fizzled out by then. And that the service is launching at a time when people will hopefully be outside a lot and not all that interested in watching TV or subscribing to yet another Flix.

(Though to be fair, that July launch date was timed to coincide with the launch of the Summer Olympics which Peacock was/is due to carry.)

If Peacock didn’t have a world of competitors, this would not be much of a problem. But HBO Max is due to launch in May, and of course Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV+ and Disney+ are all still out there as well.

Many observers have wondered openly why Comcast is not pushing up the date of the July launch, given that they currently have a very captive audience, but the reality is, it’s not that easy—the tech on OTT apps is complex and getting it right is “mission critical” as the kids say. Plus having the entire dev team working from home has got to slow things down a lot.

The service will not have any OG content when it launches tomorrow, just late night talk shows and the NBCU library. So the interface and the tech are going to be key, as viewers will likely be comparing it to the similarly free FASTS, whose content offerings are more or less in line with Peacock.

One plus: Peacock will have a bunch of channel-like objects (CLOs) devoted to specific shows (e.g., Saturday Night Live) a format that has proven very successful on services like Pluto, where CLOs are devoted to networks and genres. It puts Peacock on an equal footing with them, with the added advantage of having NBCU’s unique programming library. 

Money Changes Everything

There will be several versions of Peacock when it finally launches. A free version that will basically be another FAST, an ad-supported Premium version for $5/month and an ad-free version for $10/month. (The Premium Peacock will have twice as much programming.)

This actually puts Peacock in a prime position: if the economy is still tanking, then having a free version is going to be very appealing to people who can’t afford to pay for yet another TV service. (Or any TV service for that matter.)

If we’re still being quarantined, people might want the Premium service because they’re looking for something new to watch during all those days at home. And I suspect most will go for the ad-supported version because by July they will have spent enough money on various Flixes and decide that it’s time to start saving some money, given how uncertain the future now seems.

The other thing Peacock has going for it is the potential “Silver Lining Effect” around the Olympics—a phrase that Peacock’s Matt Strauss seems to have uttered during a press briefing today. (TL;DR: The 2021 Olympics will actually come at the point where the upcoming “content draught”— due to so many productions being shut down right now— is due to hit.)

So there’s that too.

Given all the hate Quibi got last week, it will be interesting to see what the reaction to Peacock will be.

From those who can actually download it tomorrow, that is.