June 16, 2024


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Peacock – Review 2020 – PCMag Asia

14 min read

If you’ve lost count of the number of video streaming services that are now available, you’re not alone. NBCUniversal’s Peacock (owned by Comcast) is one of the last remaining services to launch from the traditional media giants. Like all those other services, Peacock’s success will depend on the popularity of its streaming library. On that front, the service bundles lots of NBC network shows, some new original series, popular movies, and live sports. We also like the accessible pricing structure. Its biggest drawback at launch is the absence of some of the most popular NBC shows and that it lacks some of the features offered by top competitors. That said, at the free level Peacock offers the best mainstream library of any service we’ve reviewed (it also has paid tiers) and it supports full HD streams, which makes it an Editors’ Choice for free streaming.

What Can I Watch on Peacock?

Peacock claims that its free tier includes more than 13,000 hours of programming, while premium subscribers get more than 20,000 hours. The most popular shows, all originals, prestige content from other networks, and live sports events are examples of programming restricted to premium subscribers. Check out our primer on NBC Peacock for a top-line overview of what you get with the service.

Starting with the on-demand content, NBC Peacock is home to 30 Rock, Blindspot, Cheers, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, King of Queens, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Will and Grace, as well as other currently running NBC shows such as AP Bio, Chicago Fire, Law & Order: SVU, Superstore, The Titan Games, and This is Us. Free subscribers have to wait around eight days after new episodes air to watch them on Peacock, but premium subscribers can watch those episodes on the same day.

Peacock's web interface

Other shows on Peacock did not originally air on NBC. Examples include Battlestar Galactica, Chrisley Knows Best, Downton Abbey, Eureka, House, Monk, Psych, Project Blue Book, Real Husbands of Hollywood, Undercover Boss, and Warehouse 13. Charmed, Everybody Hates Chris, Ray Donovan, The Affair, The Game, and Undercover Boss are also available courtesy of a deal with ViacomCBS.

Some of the shows on Peacock are currently available on other streaming services, but once those streaming rights expire, I expect NBC to reclaim all its shows. Notably missing from the Peacock, however, are arguably the network’s three biggest shows: Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office. Friends found a home on HBO Max, while The Office is on Netflix until 2021 (though one of the clips shows continuously plays segments from The Office episodes). Seinfeld is currently on Hulu, but thanks to a likely obscenely lucrative deal, the hit sitcom is heading to Netflix in 2021.

Peacock has some original shows, too. Don’t get too excited, though, since the lineup is limited at the time of this review. The list of originals includes Brave New World, a utopian drama based on the popular book and Intelligence, a comedy series about government intelligence agencies. Peacock also lists crime-thriller The Capture, as an original, though it has already existed on BBC for a full season.

There are also some longer-form originals: Speedways, a documentary on racing tracks narrated by Dale Earnhardt Jr.; In Deep with Ryan Lochte, which explores the Olympian’s scandals and career; and a sequel to the original Psych movie called Psych 2: Lassie Come Home. Plus, there are some new family-friendly animations, including Cleopatra in Space, Curious George, and Where’s Waldo?.

Producing high-quality original shows is no easy task. Although Netflix and Prime Video seem to be launching new shows every other week, other services like Hulu and CBS All Access struggle to match the pace and track record of those releases. Apple TV+ still lags behind the competition in terms of the number of original series it offers.

NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast, owns several movie studios, including Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, and Illumination. Some of their movie franchises at the time of publishing include the Bourne trilogy, the Matrix trilogy, and Jurassic Park trilogy. Popular movies include Charlie Wilson’s War, Children of Men, Do The Right Thing, Fast & Furious, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jaws, Reservoir Dogs, Shrek, Ted, and Tully. Peacock also signed a deal with ViacomCBS to get the streaming rights for some Paramount films, including American BeautyCatch Me If You Can, the Godfather trilogy, Old School, and Seabiscuit, but none of those films are available for streaming yet.

Peacock is also home to some Hitchcock classics, including American Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, and Vertigo. There also some classic films such as Animal Crackers, All Quiet on the Western Front, Dracula, Scarface, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Raven. Other movie streaming services, including Mubi and The Criterion Channel, offer a far broader lineup of classic, indie, and international films.

Peacock's Premier League coverage

Peacock’s biggest opportunity for differentiation is its content from the broadcast NBC channels. For instance, you get episodes from top NBC shows such as Dateline NBC, Meet the Press, NBC Nightly News, NBC Sports, and Today. You can also watch comedy, news, sports, and entertainment clips and highlights from across NBCUniversal’s channels, which are very similar to the clips-based channels on Pluto TV and Xumo. A few of the channels, including NBC News Now and Sky News run throughout the day, so you can stay up to date with the day’s headlines. Others are dedicated to specific NBC shows, such as Saturday Night Live, The Office, or Late Night with Seth Myers.

One of the big potential draws of Peacock is the prospect of live sports. For instance, Peacock has the rights to 175 Premier League matches, several of which were available for streaming at the time of testing. I hope NBC allows subscribers to stream Sunday Night Football games whenever the NFL season returns, too. To prepare for the new season, check our roundup of the best NFL streaming services.

CBS All Access also bundles live local news and sports coverage into its streaming service. Though neither it nor Peacock is necessarily among the best sports streaming services, this extra content adds substantial value to the service.

Pricing and Platforms

Peacock offers three pricing tiers: an ad-supported free version with on-demand shows and movies, Peacock’s channels, and select live sports; a $4.99-per-month Premium tier with more on-demand titles (ad-supported) and live sports programming; and a $9.99-per-month tier with the full library of content (without ads) and all the sports matches. Note that one of Peacock’s support pages explains that some content will contain ads even for Premium Plus subscribers. CBS All Access’s ad-free plan has a similar caveat.

You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the paid tier. However, don’t expect that trial to stick around forever; Disney+ suspended its trial option right before the premiere of Hamilton, and NBC could very well do the same with the launch of any premium programming. Of course, the free version will still be available in that case. If you sign up for Peacock via an Android platform, you get free access to NBC’s Premium tier for three months.

Peacock is undoubtedly the most mainstream free video streaming service we’ve reviewed, with more instantly recognizable titles than Tubi or Crackle, for instance. It also doesn’t have the streaming resolution limitations of those two services.

Peacock’s $4.99-per-month monthly cost is slightly cheaper than CBS All Access’s and Hulu’s equivalent ad-supported plans, which go for $5.99 per month each. Peacock’s Premium Plus price falls in the middle of the price range of the other premium services we’ve reviewed. Disney+ and Prime Video are both cheaper at $6.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively. Netflix’s Standard Plan is $12.99 per month (the minimum plan we recommend) and HBO Max is $14.99 per month. Dedicated movie streaming services, Mubi and The Criterion Channel, are both $11.99 per month. 

In addition to watching Peacock via a web browser, you can also download dedicated apps on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV and Chromecast), and gaming consoles (Xbox One). PlayStation 4 support arrives on July 20. Peacock is not currently available on Amazon Fire TV sticks or Roku devices.

Recently Prime Video launched a dedicated app on the Microsoft Store, joining Hulu and Netflix. We’d like to see more video streaming services follow suit. Peacock does not currently have an app in the Microsoft Store.

Peacock’s Web Interface

I tested Peacock’s web interface on the Firefox browser on a Windows 10 desktop. Peacock’s web interface has a clean design with a black, yellow, gray, and white color scheme. NBC Peacock’s logo is so colorful that I had expected more dramatic splashes of color throughout. However, the layout is straightforward and I didn’t experience any performance issues in testing. I did notice that the top navigation bar is not always present in the interface, which means that you sometimes have to click the back arrow several times to get back to one of the main sections.

Peacock’s interface is split into two main sections, Channels and Browse, with a top menu bar for navigation. In the upper-right section, there is also a search bar and an icon for your account profile. The search tool can only find items by title, so you can’t search by cast members, directors, or producers, for example. The Account settings page allows you to update your profile and payment details, as well as set up parental controls, customize subtitles, and opt-out of email notifications. I appreciate the questions and answers about peacocks (the actual bird) in the help section.

Parks and Recreation's details page on Peacock

The Channels section is where you can find live sports, news streams, and the clips-based channels from various Comcast properties. Browse is where all of the service’s on-demand content lives. The Channels interface is just a guide with columns for what’s currently playing and what’s set to play next. There’s no way to prioritize your favorite channels.

The other items in the top menu are Featured, TV Shows, Movies, Kids, Sports, and Latino. All of the sections are organized similarly with highlighted content in a top slider and various curated horizontally scrolling lists running down the rest of the page. A purple feather icon in the upper left corner of a show’s or movie’s thumbnail means that it is for Premium subscribers only. There’s no way to filter the interface to only show what you get for free, unlike Prime Video’s dedicated Free To Me section.

To start watching a show or movie, just click on a thumbnail and press the Watch Now button. Unlike with most of its competitors, you can’t quickly add items to a watchlist or begin playback by just hovering over the title; both buttons are only accessible on the show’s or movie’s detail page. The Watchlist is also only available from the Featured section in the interface. I would prefer a dedicated icon next to the profile and search tools.

On a movie’s detail page, you get to see the film’s Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb rating; genre; runtime; release year; parental rating; main cast members; and a brief description. Annoyingly, the trailer auto-plays as soon as you arrive on the page and I couldn’t find a way to pause or otherwise disable the preview (modern trailers reveal way too much of a movie’s plot). At the bottom of the page, Peacock includes a section for films you may also like, along with any related clips, which, in the case of most movies, is just the trailer. For TV shows, the experience is essentially the same, except for the Episodes selector menu. Unfortunately, you can’t click on the show’s genre or cast members to see other shows that fit that mold or include those actors and actresses, which would improve Peacock’s discoverability.

There’s no place on a show or movie’s detail page to add a review and rating. Shudder, Mubi, Sundance Now, and Prime Video all allow users to add their thoughts on what they watch. Other services, including Apple TV+, Crackle, and Mubi, do a much better job of listing more detailed information about their content.

Peacock’s Mobile Apps

I tried installing Peacock on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10 and had no issues signing in to my test account. The app was hidden on the Google Play Search on launch day. The app resembles Quibi a bit, with a primarily vertical presentation of elements. I did notice some slight lag when moving between app screens and when launching streams.

Navigation is accomplished via a bottom menu with Channels, Trending, and Browse sections. You can reach your profile settings via a top-right icon (only on the Trending page), while the search bar lives in the bottom-left corner of the screen. In the profile section, you can view, but not edit, your plan information, as well as restrict playback to only over a Wi-Fi connection. There are no options for adjusting the appearance of subtitles.

Peacock's Android App

Both the Channels and Browse sections operate identically to their web counterparts. The Trending section is just a list of clips and trailers. Oddly, the Watchlist is only available via an overflow menu in the now playing screen. It should be more prominent in the mobile interface.

Unlike most other video streaming services, Peacock does not support offline downloads on mobile devices. Prime Video, Netflix, CBS All Access, HBO Max, and Disney+ support this capability.

Playback Experience

Peacock’s playback screen on the web has all the expected features. In addition to the standard playback and volume tools, there are 10-second rewind and fast forward button, a subtitles toggle, a more episodes selector (for TV shows), and an info button for viewing a brief description of the programming. The mobile app’s playback screen retains the same controls, plus the aforementioned overflow menu that gives you quick access to a More Episodes, Continue Watching, and Watchlist sections.

No other video streaming service I’ve reviewed thus far matches the utility of Prime Video’s IMDb-powered X-Ray sidebar, which lists cast members in the current scene, any music tracks, plus tidbits such as continuity goofs and random trivia.

NBC specifies a maximum of three simultaneous streams per account. BritBox is currently the most generous in terms of simultaneous streams with support for five concurrent streams. Other services, such as HBO Max and Disney+, allow three simultaneous streams. Peacock, like HBO Max, does not currently support 4K HDR streaming. Apple TV+, Disney+, Prime Video, and Netflix all offer this option.

Peacock's Now Playing screen

Peacock’s ad-experience isn’t unreasonable (the service says ads typically play before and during a show), though I still wish there weren’t any in the paid tier. When I tried streaming with all my typical privacy extensions enabled, I did see a popup telling me to disable my ad-blocker. However, once I dismissed that message, the stream started without issue. In fact, I didn’t see a single ad during playback in my experience on the desktop. I did see ads on the mobile app. Some shows had more ads than others. For instance, I had to watch 2 minutes and 45 seconds worth of ads for a 21-minute episode of Parks and Recreation, but less than a minute’s worth of ads for an episode of
30 Rock.

Ad breaks during live sports are not filled with regular ads; for the Premier League match I watched, NBC stretched out supplemental programming to fill the blocks. The clips-based channels didn’t seem to show traditional ads either. When the Office Shorts channel ended a programming block, I only say Peacock’s We’ll Be Right Back banner.

CBS All Access and Hulu’s cheapest paid tiers also have ads, too. The ad experience on free services such as Crackle and Tubi is far worse, assuming you don’t find a way to block those ads from playing with various tracking-and ad-blocking extensions.

I tried watching The Bourne Identity on a desktop web browser over my home Ethernet connection (200Mbps) and, as anticipated, encountered no issues with buffering streams or laggy audio. 

Accessibility and Parental Controls

You can’t customize Peacock’s subtitles directly from the video player. To change the appearance of these captions, you need to head to the settings on the desktop section. There, you can adjust the text size; change the color of the font, shadow, background, and window; and select a new text style. Those options are standard. However, none of the content I checked supports Audio Descriptions. Apple TV+, Prime Video, and Netflix all support this accessibility feature, which audibly narrates scene changes and character actions that are not easily discernible from dialog alone.

Peacock's parental control options

Peacock offers basic parental control tools. In the account settings section, you can create a four-digit pin that Peacock requires you to provide whenever you (or your kid) watch something at the selected parental rating or above. However, without the ability to create multiple viewing profiles, this implementation is a bit flawed. Parents with kids of different ages might want to set different ratings for each child, while parents themselves may not want to be bothered to input this PIN to watch moves and shows with ratings that are inappropriate for their kids.

Disney+, HBO Max, and Netflix are among the best video streaming services for parents looking to limit what their children can watch. These services support multiple viewing profiles and allow you to set content restrictions for each one.

Peacock and VPN

A VPN is an essential tool for protecting your privacy online from third-party threats. VPNs are also useful in the cases you want to spoof your location online. This poses a problem specifically to video streaming services, as some content may only be intended for certain regions. As such, many video streaming services simply block VPN traffic entirely.

I tried streaming some of Peacock’s on-demand content over a US-based Mullvad VPN server. On most occasions, Peacock popped up a message that explained that accessing the service via a VPN is restricted. However, I was able to stream over a VPN connection on other attempts.

Even if you find that all the video streaming services you subscribe to work with your VPN for now, know that these services are always looking for new ways to block VPN traffic. In any case, you can always just disable your VPN when streaming and then turn it back on afterward.

Birds of a Feather

The fledgling video streaming service from NBC combines an incomplete (but growing) library of fan-favorite shows and movies with live news and sports mixed in, all at a reasonable price. It even offers a completely free ad-supported tier. That said, the current lineup of originals is limited and the most popular NBC shows are not available for streaming on-demand. Peacock also currently lacks top features, such as offline downloads on mobile or support for multiple viewing profiles. Still, the free version’s substantive streaming library and support for HD streaming make it an Editors’ Choice for free services.

Our top pick for on-demand video streaming services is Netflix because of its unmatched collection of popular original titles. For streaming live TV, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV are our top picks. Hulu with Live TV offers an appealing combination of top channels and a substantial streaming library, while YouTube TV’s impresses with a top-notch interface and excellent DVR tools.

Peacock Specs

Starting Price Free
Live TV Yes
On-Demand Movies and TV Shows Yes
Original Programming Yes
Anime No
Ads Yes
Offline Downloads on Mobile Yes

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