The company hopes such a combination will attract eyeballs and subscriber dollars — and help it compete with streaming giants like Netflix and Disney Plus.
The company said the service will launch in April on Comcast platforms Xfinity X1 and Flex video, and everywhere else July 15.
NBC Universal played up its plans for live sports, particularly the Summer Olympics, which begin in Tokyo July 24 and will feature both abundant live coverage of events and behind-the-scenes treatment of athletes.
But there was one notable absence from the announcement: “Sunday Night Football,” a huge broadcast hit. Migrating “Sunday Night Football” to Peacock will be tricky. The show drew an average of more than 20 million viewers weekly this past season, and any such change would require a renegotiation between NBC and the NFL, which has digital rights spread out among a variety of companies, said one executive who was not authorized to comment publicly. That has yet to happen.
Outgoing NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke unveiled the specifics of its long-planned service at NBCUniversal’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center.
“We think we’ve identified a very unique approach,” Burke said, referring to the mix of advertising and subscription revenue streams.
Peacock will be offered on three tiers — Peacock Free, with ads; Peacock Premium, also with ads but more programming; and an ad-free tier of premium.
For Comcast cable subscribers, the first two services will be free. while the last one will cost $5. All others will pay $5 for the middle tier and $10 for the ad-free one.
Matthew Strauss, chairman of Peacock, cited internal NBC data that said 80 percent of Americans were willing to watch ads if the service was free.
Among the new shows will be “Girls5Eva,” a girl-band reunion comedy from in-house creative talent Tina Fey; a reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” from “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail; and new shows from the likes of Kevin Hart.
On the library side, in addition to “The Office,” titles will include all 45 seasons of “Saturday Night Live” and nearly all of the Dick Wolf properties, which include the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” franchises.
All of these shows will be available (potentially) for free, which executives including Strauss and NBCU ad chief Linda Yaccarino leaned on heavily at the presentation, repeating the word often in a bid to distinguish Peacock from rival services such as Netflix, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and HBO Max.
The decision to offer “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” to subscribers at 8 p.m. instead of their much later broadcast hours is a reversal from how broadcast television has traditionally driven the digital conversation. It will pose an interesting test particularly on the West Coast, where the network broadcast will come more than six hours after the show was available digitally.
As has become customary at media conglomerates’ streaming presentations, the company brought out talent to tout its service’s advantages.
Fey, the force behind “30 Rock,” took the stage to say that the combination of shows old and new was what distinguished Peacock.
The service, she said, will offer “all the NBC comedies and their hot influencer grandchildren.”
Fallon, Meyers and Rachel Maddow also took the stage. For his part, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd said that with the “Meet the Press” brand on Peacock, “we’ll be able to create a central location for how people will consume and understand politics for the next 70 years,” without offering many specifics.
Peacock is essentially attempting to split the difference between the subscription-driven model that has powered streaming giants like Netflix on one hand and the lucrative ad-supported business in which NBC (and parent company Comcast) is deeply invested on the other.
The hybrid model is “a 21st-century broadcast business delivered on the Internet,” Burke said, adding, “We like the idea of zigging when others zag.”
The addition of ads to a network’s streaming service is a decided departure. It marks an attempt to integrate two business models — that of network television and direct-to-consumer platforms — that had largely been separate. If it works, rivals soon could fold in ads in a way that makes Peacock look prescient; if it doesn’t, it could further clarify that content creators now live in a premium-subscription world.
Comcast chief Brian Roberts said the changing landscape of streaming will be “more friend than foe” to a legacy brand like NBC. “Our next chapter will be even better than the last,” he said.
But the question remains whether consumers already sticker-shocked from other streaming services will not only pay for a new one but abide ads when they do.
And even if it does work, it could have the effect of driving viewers away from the network, further eroding an important advertiser base.
NBC executives hope the comparatively low-cost service will attract new and often younger viewers who are not watching the network anyway.
Consumer retention is not the only challenge.
The timing of Peacock also puts it more than half a year behind Disney’s and Apple’s services, and two months behind WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, which arrives in the spring.
Peacock also has endured some executive shuffles at a late date, with longtime NBC executive Bonnie Hammer leaving the role to take over the company’s studio operations, and Strauss being named Peacock chairman just months ago.
Toward the end of the talent presentations, Fallon took the stage to promote the earlier streaming time for his show and the larger appeal of Peacock. He made a joke that summed up the landscape — both taking a jab at a key property of a rival and highlighting the deep library Peacock has that gives it an advantage.
Peacock will have “more than 15,000 hours of content,” he said.
Or as Martin Scorsese calls it,” he added, referring to “The Irishman,” “three movies.”