Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, will start life as a “sneak peek” preview for certain Comcast customers Tuesday. 


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Peacock‘s streaming service kicks off Wednesday. But for many people curious about NBCUniversal‘s first strike in the streaming wars, the launch may be easier to understand by what you won’t get: You can’t get Peacock at all now unless you’re a Comcast Xfinity X1 or Flex subscriber, as originally planned. Even if you are one of those Comcast customers, you won’t get a mobile app, web viewing or streaming on a TV-connected device other than Comcast’s own box. You also won’t get Peacock’s new original programming except for a few kids titles. 

And Peacock will have only a handful of originals even when it does launch to everyone in the US in July. 

“Like you, we’re all really unclear on exactly when certain things are going to go back to normal,” Matt Strauss, the head of Peacock and chairman of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said Tuesday in a briefing. “We’re going to do everything we can to try to accelerate, but we also see the value of doing some testing and learning with the Xfinity platform.”

But during this extraordinary time of the coronavirus — when people across the US are sheltering in place and isolated from friends, family and other entertainment — Peacock is sticking with a slow-burn strategy right as people are most fired up about streaming. (Comcast knows what demand is like right now: Its pay-TV service has seen a 50% surge in on-demand viewing compared with a year earlier.) 

Peacock will still launch nationally on July 15, which means anyone in the US can start streaming. But because the coronavirus and the respiratory disease COVID-19 have shut down television productions globally, the majority of Peacock’s originals have paused production too. 

That “will materially limit our original slate at launch,” Strauss said. Its sci-fi drama Brave New World is “essentially done,” its Psych movie is in good shape, and the company is optimistic its Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell reboots will be available this year. 

But Peacock, he said, “will arguably really be hitting its stride” in 2021.

Peacock is NBC’s combatant in the so-called streaming wars, a half-year window when media giants and tech titans are releasing a tide of new streaming services to take on Netflix. These competitive battles will determine who shapes the future of television — but they’ll also affect how many services you have to pay for to watch your favorite TV. Peacock in particular proves even traditional TV networks and cable companies like Comcast are placing big bets they’ll never turn the tide of cord-cutting. 

The company may launch Peacock nationally earlier than July 15, Strauss said. But the plan to launch first with Comcast customers before a national launch was “a very aggressive timeline” even before problems from the coronavirus. 

“We’re not measuring ourselves on necessarily on what we do or what happens over the next couple of months. We really believe that this is a long term strategy and opportunity,” Strauss said. 

And the coronavirus disruptions could lead to different kinds of content with stars that otherwise wouldn’t have been available in normal times, he added. 

Preview-version Peacock

As planned before the pandemic, Comcast’s NBC will launch the Peacock streaming service Wednesday for Comcast pay-TV customers with its high-end Xfinity X1 cable service or people with its internet-delivered Flex video service. It won’t be available for all Comcast customers tomorrow, though; the company will be rolling Peacock out across its footprint over “the next few weeks.”

This preview-version of Peacock will be free for those Comcast customers. TK ADS. 

In this preview period before national launch July 15, it will have a library including catalog titles like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock; high-profile movies from its studios like Universal and Dreamworks Animation; news and cultural content; and trending-style short-form clips like Tom Hanks’ monologue from his home for Saturday Night Live last weekend. 

Peacock will also begin its Late Night Early concept during this preview, which lets Peacock viewers watch Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers earlier than their normal broadcast times. But, because of the coronavirus’ effect on TV production, this Late Night Early concept will be showing segments from the slimmed-down versions of those shows that Fallon and Meyers are shooting out of their homes. Those will hit Peacock every day at 9:30 pm ET.

But the vast majority of Peacock’s original programming, which includes shows from big-name stars and a bunch of reboots (including reboots of reboots), is mostly on hold. The initial version of Peacock will have new exclusive episodes of Curious George, Where’s Waldo? and Cleopatra in Space. (Peacock will also stream the NFL Wild Card Game and the concert special One World: Together at Home.)

Comcast customers can watch Peacock free with ads or to pay $5 a month to remove ads. (If they want to upgrade to ad-free, X1 and Flex customers can do so on www.peacocktv.com.) At the national launch, as planned, non-Comcast customers have the option of a limited, ad-supported free tier, an all-inclusive ad-supported tier at $5 a month and a $10 tier that gives you everything but without any ads. 


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