Now that every network behemoth needs to throw its hat into the best TV streaming service (opens in new tab) ring, NBCUniversal has entered the fray with Peacock. With access to content from NBC, Universal, SyFy, Bravo, and Telemundo, there’s something for everyone to be found in the service’s library. Sports, kids’ shows, movies, current series, and old favorites: all of it can be found within Peacock’s digital walls.
The conversation about Peacock is less about how good it is (pretty darn good, actually) and if it’s good enough to compete with the many other services that are out there like Hulu (opens in new tab) and HBO Max (opens in new tab). While it may not be better than any of them, it may be a good enough compromise of several of them to ultimately save you money.
Peacock review: TV shows
- Strong TV lineup with shows from NBC, SyFy, USA and more
- Live sports (when they resume)
Peacock’s TV lineup is quite strong, offering both recent and long-term favorites. NBC’s parent company also owns SyFy, Bravo, and USA, allowing for a mix of reality, genre, and mainstream television programming. Law & Order, Heroes, This is Us, Cheers, 30 Rock, Murder She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica: bingeable content abounds in the library. Peacock has a handful of original shows, as well, including dramas Brave New World and The Capture, and the David Schwimmer comedy Intelligence.
Under normal circumstances, Peacock’s sports lineup would include live games, though obviously that’s not happening during the pandemic. Sport-hungry viewers will have to make do with the service’s sports documentaries, plenty of footage from the Olympics, and some fun sports-adjacent content like Michael Jordan on Saturday Night Live.
Perhaps the most enjoyable section of Peacock is its Channels section, which is, as it implies, a selection of curated channels of programming. In addition to a variety of news channels, you can enjoy nonstop streams of 80s shows, comedy, Hells’ Kitchen, or Bob Ross. Nonstop Bob Ross, people.
Peacock review: Movies
- Lacks recent releases.
- Good curation of classic movies.
What Peacock’s movie library lacks in recency it makes up for in curation. A quick browse around the choices shows movies as diverse as Reservoir Dogs and Vertigo. There’s an entire Nicolas Cage section. Psycho is listed right next to American Psycho, a move so profoundly cheeky you can’t help but admire it. And Peacock gets bonus points for having Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the semi-miraculous musical starring the Bee Gees doing Beatles music.
The Kids section may be of particular interest to parents trying to keep their kids busy. In addition to entertainment like Barbie and Care Bears, Peacock’s Kids programming includes a bunch of crafts, projects, and magic how-tos. And while the “Magic Booger Trick” is a recipe for disaster (or at least disgust), How to Draw Trolls can serve as art class during home schooling. NBC has access to everything Dreamworks, so there’s plenty of Shrek, as well as the Peacock original Cleopatra in Space.
Peacock review: Pricing
- Limited free viewing.
- Premium subscription is $4.99 per month, $49.99 annually.
- Premium Plus (ad free) is $9.99 per month, $99.99 annually.
Peacock’s home page proudly declares “It’s Free. No credit card required.” And while that is true, it’s also very misleading. Some of the shows and movies on the service are, indeed, free to watch, but the majority of the content is behind a paywall.
Typically, the first episode of a series is free, but the rest is subscription only. You can certainly find things to watch without ever paying for Peacock, but at some point, you are more than likely going to find yourself stymied by the fee. It’s also worth mentioning that much of the free programming has unskippable commercial breaks crammed into it.
Should you tire of farming the free entertainment for something worth watching, Peacock’s Premium subscription (opens in new tab) is $4.99 a month. That five bucks does get you access to everything on the service, but it doesn’t free you from the burden of commercials. Yep, you’ll still have them in a “small amount of programming.” To lose the ads, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium Plus, for $9.99 a month. You’ll save a bit if you pay for an entire year up front: an annual subscription for Premium is $49.99 and for Premium Plus is $99.99.
Peacock review: Quality of Stream
We tested Peacock on an iMac (opens in new tab), Apple TV, and iPhone 8 (opens in new tab). The first issue was a lack of feedback during the initial sign-up process, which repeatedly failed. We eventually discovered the problem was the use of an invalid character (an ampersand) in our chosen password, but that was only revealed on Peacock’s website, not in its app. The stream itself was fine across devices.
Should I subscribe to Peacock?
Your decision whether or not to subscribe to Peacock should be driven by two questions: Do you have access to any other streaming services and How much is your budget? Peacock’s curation is fantastic, without question, but none of its programming is so compelling as to make it a better choice over many other options. That said, if your budget will only allow for a single service, Peacock’s mix of TV shows, movies, sports, and children’s content may be a solid compromise over subscribing to several different services.
It’s also worth remembering that content will be moving onto and off of Peacock regularly. The service made much of having the Jurassic Park movies when it launched, but as of this writing, they’re about to leave the service. That won’t matter to viewers who simply want entertainment at their fingertips, but anyone counting on a particular show or movie being there when they crave it may find themselves disappointed.