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NBCUniversal Debuts 'Peacock' Streaming Service


For those who think there are not get enough TV streaming services, here's one more.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Introducing Peacock.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's streaming, launching, premiering. It's TV...

INSKEEP: Today NBCUniversal premieres Peacock, which is a new platform that will be the fifth major streaming service launched since late last year. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans has had a look. Eric, good morning.


INSKEEP: I guess we can at least say people have been at home and have time to check these services out, but do we really need another one?

DEGGANS: (Laughter) Well, people might need it if it's free.


DEGGANS: So it's true that Peacock is going to hit the market after competitors like Disney+ and Apple TV+ and HBO Max and Quibi have already debuted. But Peacock has one advantage that they don't, which is a free tier where subscribers can access 13,000 hours of content - with ads - at no charge.


DEGGANS: And, you know, one thing we've learned from people about all this streaming stuff is that one thing that bothers them is the rising number of streaming services that charge. And so now those monthly - if you can offer a service that doesn't have those monthly fees piling up, maybe people might be interested in it.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, what do the 13,000 hours include, then?

DEGGANS: (Laughter) Well, you know, there's a few different tiers of service. So like I said, there's the free tier - you get 13,000 hours. That includes new episodes of current NBC series, sample episodes of original shows that were made just for Peacock. They have a version of novelist Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." They have older shows like "30 Rock." They have these curated channels where you can see highlights from shows like "The Office" and "Saturday Night Live." They have movies. They have some live sports.

There's a premium tier that costs about $5 a month that offers 20,000 hours of material, and that's also with ads. And that includes all episodes of the Peacock original series, early access to episodes of "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With Seth Meyers." And there's a top tier that's priced at about $10 a month which doesn't have ads at all.

INSKEEP: OK, so that's appealing. Now, when NBCUniversal does this - and, of course, they've already got so many other ways to get their programming out - what does it suggest about where they think the market is heading?

DEGGANS: I think NBC is looking forward to a time when the broadcast stations that carry their network programming may not be around. Broadcasters know that the audience for so-called traditional linear television - TV that airs on a schedule - is declining every year. So NBC's created something of a hybrid service that gives audiences their network programming, sometimes on demand and often with ads. But this sidesteps the local affiliate stations, and some of them are not too happy about it. Now, NBCUniversal rolled out a version of this service in mid-April to subscribers of their corporate sibling, Xfinity cable systems, to work out the bugs. And now they're ready to roll it out to everybody nationally.

INSKEEP: Tell me why some of the affiliate stations or other people would not be so happy about their programming being on this service, too?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, this sort of classic relationship between the affiliate stations and the network - the affiliate stations were sort of the local ambassadors for the network. And, of course, the local affiliate stations sell advertising time. And, you know, they make money by having local people watch NBC programming, and to sidestep that relationship might threaten their business model.

INSKEEP: In a few seconds, is a pandemic a good time to launch a streaming service?

DEGGANS: Well, Quibi found out that it wasn't (laughter). But like a lot of platforms, I think Peacock has had to - hasn't been able to finish some of its original shows. But I think people might want some comfort-food programming. And, again, this idea that they might want to save money in a pandemic, where finances are uncertain...

INSKEEP: Could mean some...

DEGGANS: ...A free streaming service might not be a bad idea.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Deggans. Thanks.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.