There are only a handful of cable networks that have managed to successfully survive the seismic shift in the media landscape that came with the dawn of the 21st century. The television industry, as a whole, seemed to be almost stubbornly skeptical of the internet over the course of the last 30 years. The internet, however, strode on regardless, and computers quickly unseated televisions as the new hearth of the home.
Some companies, of course, were eager to position themselves at the forefront of the streaming revolution. Netflix is easily the most notable example of this. They wasted no time making the switch from providing DVD rentals through the postal service to propping themselves up as the company whose name is synonymous with streaming itself. Whether planning to watch Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, people often simply use “Netflix” as the convenient shorthand for streaming TV or movies – best reflected in the salacious phrase, “Netflix and chill.”
In 2020, though, just about every traditional cable network has adapted to the times, with varying levels of fervor. Some networks have simply embedded live and on-demand TV streaming right onto their websites (although, more often than not, viewers are still required to sign in via their traditional cable provider in order to watch anything), whereas others have gone so far as to put themselves in direct competition with the behemoth that is Netflix by creating their own premium streaming platforms. HBO is a prime example of a more traditional network that was quick to bridge the gap between TV and the internet (in fact, there are three separate platforms on which you can stream HBO content: HBO Max, HBO Now, and HBO Go).
Disney, too, finally joined the streaming party just last year when they introduced their record-breaking streaming platform, Disney Plus. Better late than never, right? Another cable network, though, that has recently decided to throw its hat into the ring is NBC. Their premium streaming service, Peacock, just launched earlier this month, on July 15th (2020).
Honestly, if any traditional TV network deserves its own streaming platform, NBC is probably it. They have been pumping out quality television for nearly 100 years now. In fact, NBC is one of the few channels that I do brush the dust off the old TV every once in a while for. There are very few shows that I feel compelled to watch live as they air, and NBC broadcasts several of them.
Peacock, however, is much more than just a way to stream NBC’s original content. It offers thousands of hours of syndicated movies and TV shows as well, which makes it a totally viable alternative to Netflix or Hulu. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Peacock didn’t run away with a sizeable portion of Netflix’s viewership – if only because The Office will soon be available exclusively on Peacock starting January 1st, 2021 (when the show gets pulled from its longtime home of Netflix).
In addition to all of your favorite NBC original shows, as well as hundreds of syndicated TV series and classic movies (and The Office), Peacock offers a truly unique blend of content. Enjoy live sports events, such as matches from the English Premier League, a daily dose of news (from NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, and E! News), and new original Peacock exclusive series. As far as content is concerned (both in terms of quality and quantity), Peacock is starting to look rather appealing, is it not?
Content, though massively important, is not everything. In order to know for certain whether Peacock is going to be worth your money – (do we really need another monthly streaming bill?) – is to dive on in and take a critical look at everything that the streaming service has to offer. What are Peacock’s strengths? What are its failings? How much will it cost you each month? There is a lot to cover here, too, so, without further ado, I give you the newest premium streaming service on the market, Peacock.
The very first thing that stood out to me about Peacock was its sleek, modern, clean, minimalist design. It’s slick, and it’s pretty intuitive. I love the way that Peacock looks. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the best-looking premium streaming service out there at the moment. It looks, to be frank, something like I expected Apple TV to look – with its very clean lines and app-like navigation style (browse the sections of the service by clicking one of 9 tabs at the top of the page: Channels, Browse, Featured, TV Shows, Movies, Kids, News, Sports, or Latino).
As far as usability is concerned, I do have some minor complaints. There is no “skip” or “next episode” button, for instance, which will make binging your favorite comfort shows more annoying than it should be (this is quite a big miss, too, considering the fact that Peacock is staking quite a bit of its credit to snatching up its exclusive rights to shows like The Office and Parks and Rec). You have to go through the trouble of returning to the episode list (which is also not conveniently accessible while watching content) every time you want to jump ahead in a series.
So, in short, I would say that Peacock looks phenomenal. Unfortunately, though, this comes at the cost of user experience.
Content and Features
Peacock makes up for its usability oversights in the quality (and quantity) of its content. As I mentioned, starting next year, Peacock will be the only streaming service where you’ll be able to watch America’s two favorite comedies: The Office and Parks and Rec. And it has every other NBC show you can think of.
Peacock also offers plenty of movies, news content, original Peacock shows and movies, and live sporting events. It seems to me, though, like signing up for Peacock now is more of an investment in your streaming future than it is an immediate concern. Just about every one of the NBC shows that are on Peacock (and many of the movies) are available on other streaming services (at the moment). Peacock is really going to fan its feathers, I think, come next year when many of those shows will not be available anywhere else.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
As is often the case with a new app, this one needs to work out some issues. Again, it looks nice, but the functionality is subpar. There is no mini-screen streaming, for instance, that allows you to continue watching content while you browse for something else. There are also many reviews on the Apple App Store that claim the live streaming quality is not great.
My biggest complaint, though, is the service’s device limitations. It is not available on Roku or Firestick at the moment, and it doesn’t look as if there are any plans in the works for either of these tremendously common platforms to welcome Peacock to the fold any time soon. However, if you use a Vizio or LG smart TV, Android TV, Xbox One, or Chromecast, you can enjoy Peacock to its full potential.
Pricing and Plans
One thing that makes Peacock stand out is the fact that it advertises the ability to start streaming content for free with no credit card required. However, content is limited, naturally, with this free version. If you want Peacock Premium, you are looking at $4.99/month. And that is with ads. Much like Hulu, you’ll pay extra for an ad-free streaming experience ($5 more Premium Plus).
In other words, Peacock is not offering anything revolutionary in the way of monthly payments. To the service’s credit, though, they do not charge you anything extra in order to take advantage of the live sports streaming, which actually is quite rare in the world of streaming services.
Suggestions that I have for Peacock
Honestly, I think Peacock should do more usability and functionality tests. Maybe even conduct a few more focus groups to really nail down what it is that people want, features wise, from their streaming service. I want to like Peacock, I really do, but I am hoping that in the months to come, they can work out some of their shortcomings when it comes to usability.
Secondly, Peacock really needs to work out its accessibility issue. Frankly, they should have had this already taken care of long before they launched. The fact that I can’t stream Peacock on my Roku TV is unacceptable.