NBC's Streaming Platform Peacock Might Offer Free Service to Everyone

Now that the streaming wars are heating up thanks to Disney+, HBO MAX and Apple TV+, NBCUniversal's upcoming app Peacock is coming up with a unique way to stand out. The streaming service, which will be home to The Office, Parks and Recreation and many other NBC classics when it launches, might just turn back the clock and be free to everyone. That would be similar to the old days of Hulu, when that service launched as a completely free, ad-supported streamer.

Sources told CNBC that the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is "considering" making an ad-supported version of Peacock available to everyone. It would be the first free streaming on-demand video platform from any of the major U.S. media conglomerates.

Previously, it was thought Peacock would only be free to Comcast cable and broadband subscribers. CNBC reports this is still being considered, but the ad-supported tier would open up its content to anyone.

There is also expected to be an ad-free version of Peacock that will come with a charge, the sources told CNBC. There could also be multiple tiers of Peacock for Comcast subscribers, but the main service will still be free and with commercials.

"Free with commercials" is how Hulu worked when it launched. The idea of going back to that format is to help increase the number of people checking out Peacock and - of course - reeling in additional ad dollars. It would be the biggest "AVOD" (advertising on demand) service available.

Most of Peacock's competition will cost consumers extra, although promotions have already sprung up to make them available for free-ish. Verizon wireless customers will get a free year-long subscription to Disney's Disney+ platform, which costs $6.99 and launches on Nov. 12. Apple TV+ is available for $4.99, but anyone buying a new Apple product can get an year-long subscription for free. Some AT&T customers can also get access to HBO Max for free, since AT&T owns HBO's parent company, WarnerMedia.

Peacock will have over 15,000 hours of content, and is set to include new shows from Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, The Good Place mastermind Mike Schur and Mr. Robot's Sam Esmail. NBC also spent $500 million to secure the rights to stream The Office - which was made by NBCUniversal anyway - for five years after the Netflix deal expires in 2021.

In January, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told CNBC Peacock subscribers can expect three to five minutes of ads per hour of programming. Burke believes the company could make $5 per month form each user just from advertising.

While NBC hashes out the details of Peacock's subscription tiers, NBC Direct-to-Consumer Bonnie Hammer teased new shows when the new name was announced.

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“The name Peacock pays homage to the quality content that audiences have come to expect from NBCUniversal – whether it’s culture-defining dramas from innovative creators like Sam Esmail, laugh-out-loud comedies from legends like Lorne Michaels and Mike Schur, blockbusters from Universal Pictures, or buzzy unscripted programming from the people who do it best at Bravo and E!,” Hammer said at the time. “Peacock will be the go-to place for both the timely and timeless – from can’t-miss Olympic moments and the 2020 election, to classic fan favorites like The Office.”

Photo credit: Getty Images/NBC

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