The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders have had a cascade effect on the entertainment industry, but there’s one thing we (well, some of us) can still count on: NBCUniversal is moving forward with an early preview of its Peacock streaming service for certain Comcast customers.
Way back in January, NBCU announced the pricing tiers for Peacock, and also shared that the service would be available on April 15 to Comcast X1 users and broadband subscribers (via Flex). During a conference call with press on Tuesday afternoon, Matthew Strauss, the chairman of Peacock and NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, and Dana Strong, the president of Xfinity Consumer Services at Comcast, confirmed that the early preview window for Peacock Premium will open on April 15 as planned. The national launch is still set for July 15.
The Peacock Premium service will be available for free to X1 and Flex customers on Wednesday; that tier consists of 15,000 hours of content, organized by channels, trending, movies, etc. It’s also where upcoming originals, like the latest Psych movie—which Strauss says has wrapped—will populate. Additionally, premium users will be able to access next-day, current-season content, as well as the early window of late-night programming. There will also be a broader selection of tentpole series. As Strong said, “Offering Peacock Premium at no additional cost, seamlessly integrated on Xfinity X1 and Flex is another example of our commitment to provide more value, content and choice to customers.” But NBCU expects to bundle with other cable/broadband providers.
The free Peacock tier will have about 7,500 hours of programming, including movies and complete TV series. Users will have access to over 20 Peacock channels, as well as news, sports, and Latino content. Current season content that will also be available in the free tier. Strauss called the free tier the “front porch” of the Peacock service—an invitation, and one they’re “committed to making good.” If you don’t have a Peacock-affiliated TV or broadband provider, you can purchase it a la carte for $4.99 a month with ads ($10 per month without ads).
Asked if there was ever any moment in recent weeks when the company considered postponing the launch, since some original launch series aren’t going to be ready, Strauss simply said no. The NBCU exec insisted on finding the silver lining to revised scheduling, pointing out that, once the work resumes, there will be two Olympics to tout and televise in a “relatively short amount of time.” Strauss admitted that the original timeline was an “aggressive” one, but the plan was always to launch in phases. He’s optimistic that originals like the Saved By The Bell reboot and Punky Brewster sequel series will premiere some time in 2020, but also noted that viewing habits have also shifted considerably—on average, there’s been an uptick of two hours of streaming/TV time per day, per household. Currently, in its free or Premium form, Peacock has numerous options for comfort watches, including The Office, which will be exclusive to the service. Peacock will also offer new (and early) episodes of Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show: At Home Edition and Late Night With Seth Meyers. To keep the kids busy, there will also be all-new episodes of Curious George, Where’s Waldo? and Cleopatra In Space. Among the other Peacock selections are NFL Wild Card games and the “One World: Together at Home” live concert special.
One more thing: If you are an Xfinity internet-only subscriber, you do have free access to Flex. The Flex TV device is free for Comcast internet customers, can be ordered online here, and will be sent directly to the customer’s home along with a self-installation kit. When The A.V. Club has reached out to Comcast for clarification on access to Flex for internet-only Xfinity users, a spokesperson replied, “At this time there are no logistical impacts to shipping equipment to Xfinity customers who request them.”