NBCUniversal is launching a new streaming service that will have a large part available for free, an approach it hopes will resonate with people who aren't interested in traditional TV.
The service, Peacock, will debut April 15 for customers of Comcast, NBCUniversal's parent company. Everyone else will get it July 15, just before the Olympics.
There's a free version, a $5-a-month version with lots more stuff and a $10 option to remove ads. The prices are in line with what many rivals cost. The $5 version will be free for 24 million households that get TV subscriptions through Cox or either TV or internet through Comcast, NBCUniversal's parent company. Those customers can pay $5 a month to remove ads.
NBCUniversal hopes to position Peacock as broader than the other major streaming services already out there and coming soon, with news, sports and reality TV along with shows and movies — just like a traditional broadcast TV network, but with fewer ads, at five minutes an hour.
By contrast, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and the upcoming HBO Max from AT&T's Warner Media don't have ads at all, though AT&T has talked about having some in the future. Hulu, in which Comcast is a silent minority owner for a few more years, also has ad and ad-free option, as well Quibi, an upcoming short-video streaming service that's backed by Hollywood studios.
The influx of new streaming services comes from the country's biggest tech and entertainment companies as people increasingly turn away from watching live network TV and cut their cable subscriptions. These new offerings model themselves on Netflix: a catalog of movies and TV shows available whenever and wherever people want to watch, for a monthly fee. They'll have to fight for consumers' attention and money.
All the costs for streaming services add up, and surveys suggest people don't want to subscribe to all of them, especially with many existing streaming options already, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. That's why NBCUniversal is emphasizing that Peacock comes with a free option. Prices for rivals range from $5 a month (Apple TV Plus and Quibi with ads) to $15 (HBO Max). Netflix's most popular plan costs $13.
Peacock will have 15,000 hours of programming, including original content and stuff from the NBC library like "The Office," which leaves Netflix for Peacock in 2021. Not all of Peacock's content will be exclusive.
Paying subscribers of NBCUniversal's upcoming Peacock streaming service will get Premier League soccer matches unavailable on TV and late-night shows from Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers a few hours early.
For shows in their first season, Peacock will let viewers watch episodes for free the day after they air. The free version also offers some episodes of original shows and classic favorites. The paid version comes with next-day broadcast episodes for shows that are on their second season or longer.
NBCUniversal said Thursday that the general launch will be timed to the Olympics and its promotional opportunities. The games in Tokyo start July 24 and will be televised on NBC networks in the U.S.
Peacock will show the opening and closing ceremonies before they are televised in prime time. It will also have three daily shows with Olympics highlights and other features. NBCUniversal is making at least some of the Olympics available for free, but it didn't immediately say how much. Paying subscribers get Premier League soccer beginning in August.
NBCUniversal officials said Thursday that Peacock will also be the exclusive streaming home to new episodes of the "Curious George" kids show and will have news programs and documentaries created for the service.
Original shows will include a series based on a true-crime podcast that stars Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. Peacock also plans to remake sci-fi favorite "Battlestar Galactica." And Michael Schur, the creator of "Parks and Recreation" and "The Good Place," is producing a comedy called "Rutherford Falls."
Media analyst Rich Greenfield said he considers Peacock a "digital version of a broadcast network," with a better consumer experience than traditional TV.
CBS All Access, launched in 2014, functions in some ways as a digital version of CBS and remains a relatively small streamer.
Comcast will invest $2 billion in Peacock in its first two years of operation, and it predicts losing money for years. It says it'll break even by the fifth year. It hopes to have 30 million to 35 million accounts by 2024, along with $2.5 billion in revenue. That's small compared with Disney Plus, which is targeting 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers for 2024.