NBCUniversal unveils details of new streaming service Peacock

The company enters a crowded streaming marketplace that includes top-tier digital players Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+.

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By Daniel Arkin and Claire Atkinson

NBCUniversal is entering the Hollywood streaming wars.

The media giant on Thursday unveiled its plans for Peacock, a new direct-to-consumer internet-delivered service that will feature a mix of current NBC shows, original scripted series, movies from the Universal Pictures library, sports content and news programs.

“This is a very exciting time for our company, as we chart the future of entertainment,” Steve Burke, chairman of NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “We have one of the most enviable collections of media brands and the strongest record in the business.”

NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC, enters a crowded streaming marketplace that includes top-tier digital players Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Peacock, slated to launch April 15 to select Comcast customers before debuting nationally July 15, arrives as consumers increasingly turn away from traditional linear television and spend more of their viewing time on streaming platforms. (Comcast owns NBCUniversal.)

Peacock will differ from platforms like Netflix and Disney+ in crucial ways, however. The service will offer some content free, rely on advertising and feature some live programming, including breaking news coverage from units across NBC News and MSNBC.

“By delivering timely and topical content like breaking news, live sports, and watercooler moments from late night, Peacock is uniquely bringing a pulse to the world of streaming that does not exist in today’s marketplace,” Matt Strauss, the chairman of Peacock, said in a statement.

Peacock will offer three pricing tiers. The most basic option, Peacock Free, will feature some NBCUniversal content accompanied by commercials. The next level, Peacock Premium, will give users access to a more robust library of ad-supported content for $4.99 a month. Premium users can also upgrade to an ad-free experience for roughly $10 a month.

Strauss said the company expects to earn between $6 and $7 a month per subscriber, with most of the money coming from ad revenue, which the company sees as an opportunity missed by other streaming services.

"Ad-supported streaming isn’t just about giving consumers what they want — it’s also about giving advertisers what they desperately need," said Linda Yaccarino, head of advertising for NBCUniversal.

The Peacock experience will more closely mirror that of linear television than its streaming competitors. A video will start as soon as a viewer signs on to the service, similar to turning on a television.

Strauss said the company projects that the platform will generate $2.5 billion in revenue by 2024.

The service will be anchored by NBC programs from the network’s prime-time lineup, including “Law and Order: SVU” and producer Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise, as well as older shows (“30 Rock,” “The Office”) and fan-favorite Universal Pictures movies (“Back to the Future,” “Jaws”).

NBCUniversal is also preparing to roll out a slate of original shows exclusive to Peacock, including a music-themed comedy produced by Tina Fey and reboots of the classic shows “Saved by the Bell” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

Clint Stinchcomb, the president and chief executive of the video-on-demand service CuriosityStream, told NBC News that live news and sports programs are "potentially huge, consumer-pleasing differentiators" — offerings that might help Peacock stand out on the streaming circuit.

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, noted that NBCUniversal was a relatively late entrant to the streaming wars.

"Now that they're finally streaming, they're using a business model they developed nearly a century ago: gather the attention of an audience with free programming and sell that attention to advertisers," Thompson wrote in an email.

In a statement, NBCUniversal touted other Peacock features, including early access to daily episodes of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” as well as live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

Fey and Meyers both appeared at a Thursday afternoon event for investors inside Rockefeller Plaza, the network's headquarters. Fey introduced a montage of shows that will appear on Peacock, and Meyers cracked a few jokes ahead of a video featuring clips from upcoming original comedy series.