The home of the Premier League and WWE makes Peacock essential for fans, but for everyone else, the dearth of noteworthy originals and a B-tier line-up of movies makes Peacock little more than a catch-up service for NBC TV shows.
- Brilliant Premier League coverage
- The home of the WWE Network
- Harry Potter films now available
- Excellent mobile app interface
- Flexible pricing
- Hardly any 4K content 2 years in
- No HDR or Dolby Atmos sound
- Lame original content
- Live sports including Premier League, NFL, WWE, and MLBNBC’s brilliant Premier League coverage offers 175 live games a season, with all 380 available on demand
- Offline downloadsWith a Premium Plus subscription ($9.99) you get ad-free viewing, offline downloads, next-day access to shows and some very limited 4K
- Widely available appWhether it’s smart TV, mobile, web browser or games consoles, NBC Universal has done a good job of getting Peacock on to the major platforms
NBC Universal’s streaming service Peacock is named after the US broadcaster NBC’s historic logo, but happens to be an apt name, given the modern parlance.
This is the entertainment conglomerate showing off with an impressive lineup of sports, television shows and films that are perfect for cord-cutters and those supplementing their viewing. There are free, paid, and ad-free options to suit several budgets.
There are some big-hitters here. Peacock is the exclusive home of most Premier League football games, and it incorporates the service formerly known as the WWE Network too. There’s live golf, NFL and MLB games and wall-to-wall coverage of Olympic Games.
It’s the home of legendary comedies such as The Office (US), Cheers, Parks and Rec, Modern Family and, of course, the NBC crown jewel of Saturday Night Live. There’s plenty for drama fans, too: Yellowstone, House, Law & Order, Friday Night Lights, Charmed and plenty of reality TV from the Real Housewives crew and co., courtesy of Bravo. There’s some original shows, too!
Universal Pictures is offering new movies on Peacock just 45 days after the cinemas release, with Jurassic World: Dominion and Nope among them. They’ll join a large catalogue from the Universal archives, and now Harry Potter has moved over from HBO Max!
But can a service such as Peacock rival the likes of HBO Max and Paramount Plus? Has the archive content it has taken back from Netflix put it in the ascendency? What about Disney Plus and its massive franchises?
- USARRP: $4.99
Peacock is a United States-based streaming service, but has recently expanded into the UK, where it’s currently available to Sky subscribers. The libraries are very different due to licensing agreements so, for this review, I’m focusing on the US service.
Peacock Free airs content you’d expect to find on NBC’s free-to-air channels. You can get Peacock Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or Peacock Premium Plus for largely ad-free access (although there are some exceptions for live events) as well as some very limited 4K content.
Both Premium tiers deliver access to the full library of content and next-day access to brand-new episodes. Some Cox and Xfinity internet subscribers can get Peacock Premium on the house.
The key web browsers and smart TV platforms are covered, as well as the key set-top box makers and games consoles. Naturally, iPhone/iPad and Android apps are available.
- Web Browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari
- Mobile: iOS, iPad OS, Android
- Amazon: Fire TV and Fire tablet (Fire OS 5 and onwards)
- Android TV: Wide range of Android TV products including Sony Bravia TVs and Nvidia Shield boxes
- Apple TV: Apple TV HD and 4K (tvOS 13 and onwards)
- Google Chromecast
- Hisense VIDAA: 2021 and onwards
- LG: Smart TV with webOS 3.5 and onwards
- PlayStation: PS4, PS5
- Roku: Most recent set-up boxes, streaming sticks and smart soundbars
- Samsung: Smart TV from 2017 and newer
- VIZIO TV: SmartCast 2.0 or 3.0 (from 2016 and newer)
- Xbox: Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
- Xfinity: Various set-top boxes and media players including the Flex
- TV app is awkward to navigate
- Curated approach to serving content
The Peacock interface is user-friendly on mobile devices, but I’m less keen on the smart TV app, which can be a little awkward to navigate thanks to the finnicky featured content carousel and the disappearing side menu. It’s difficult to see what you’re highlighting, leading to incorrect clicks.
The touch-based mobile interface has a top-loaded menu featuring categories such as movies, drama, comedy, sport, WWE and so on, and it makes for a better experience. Featured content is static, making it easier to tap and go.
As with most of its rivals, the interface is designed around what you like, what Peacock thinks you might like, and what it wants you to like. Beneath the carousel of featured content, you can pick up your shows with Continue Watching, or delve into a highlighted show within My Stuff. Then there’s Peacock Picks recommendations, Just Added and Must-See Peacock originals.
This hierarchy of content feels logical. You’ll also find access to some trending shows and then the classic NBC properties. There are featured brands (Premier League, WWE, NFL, Bravo and so on) too. Overall, it does a great job of showcasing what Peacock is all about, and you’ll get a sense for whether this is for you almost instantly. Nice job, NBC.
Tap on a title itself, you’ll find review scores, viewing formats, length as well as as cast, crew and trailers.
- Limited 4K library
- No Atmos support (yet)
- Lacking HDR support
Two years following launch, we’re getting some 4K content on Peacock. It’s currently limited to movies such as The Black Phone, Uncut Gems, They/Them, You Should Have Left and – for some peculiar reason – the Fast and Furious series. I’ve requested a full list of compatible titles from Peacock.
4K movies are limited to Premium Plus subscribers and will play automatically if you have a compatible setup. However, there’s no HDR offering. Peacock is planning on adding 4K streaming to supported Premier League games (basically, those shot in 4K by UK broadcasters) in 2023.
However, NBC TV stations already air the games in 4K via services such as YouTube TV or FuboTV, so it’s about time Peacock got in on the act. Peacock’s SVP, Product & UX John Jelley told World Soccer Talk in August 2022 that 4K games will be joined by Dolby Atmos and 5.1 audio.
Hopefully, other 4K sports offered by the NBC Universal networks – such as the recent Winter Olympics – will come to Peacock too. The audio side of things needs work as well. Most content is standard stereo 2.0, although some movies are in 5.1.
The lack of high-end AV options is a disappointment, especially when compared to rivals’ efforts. For us, reviewing this service with a tech leaning, it knocks off a star.
Peacock does redeem itself in other ways, tech-wise. If you join a Premier League game mid-way through the first half, for example, you can catch up with key plays (chances, goals, major incidents and so on). There’s access to offline downloads on mobile for Premium Plus subscribers, plus the ability to add individual adult and children’s profiles. Parental controls are available via the web settings, and it’s possible to customise the appearance of the subtitles.
- US subscribers get WWE content
- English Premier League available
- Harry Potter series joins Universal movies
Many people arrive at Peacock for two reasons: WWE and the Premier League. The former WWE Network now lives exclusively within Peacock. WWE shut down its standalone service in the US (it still exists overseas) after agreeing a mega deal with NBC Universal.
Although many viewers loved the old WWE Network app, it’s great deal for Peacock subscribers who get every WWE premium live event (FKA pay-per-view) for as little as $4.99 a month, plus all of the archive (although not the most recent RAW and Smackdowns) and original content from wrestling history (WCW, ECW, territories and Indies).
The Premier League is a different story. NBC has shifted more games to Peacock, which is great for cord-cutters, but not so great for people who already have a TV subscription. The biggest games, such as August’s Manchester United vs Liverpool fixture, would usually be on the basic cable channel USA Network or the free-to-air NBC 6. Now it’s on Peacock.
NBC Universal paid $2.7 billion for six years of the Premier League, so it’s going to pick the most effective way to utilise that investment. With a TV sub and Peacock, you can watch all 380 games a season live. With Peacock alone, 175 are live and the rest on demand. Peacock has replays, highlights, news-based videos, and other special programming as well as a 24/7 Premier League channel.
Other sports include NFL’s Sunday Night Football (also on free-to-air TV) and the popular Pro Football Talk show, live MLB baseball games, live PGA Tour golf, motorsport such as IndyCar and NASCAR, French Open tennis, top horse racing and the Olympics.
Movie highlights come via the Universal Pictures post-theatre releases, which are starting to arrive as early as 45 days after multiplex release. Current headliners include The Northman, The Bad Guys and Downton Abbey: A New Era. However, the library isn’t particularly deep. There’s a lot of B-tier stuff, but the recent addition of Harry Potter could be as important as Star Wars is to Disney Plus.
The TV library offers most stuff available via NBC networks (NBC, USA Network, Bravo, CNBC) with next-day access for Premium Plus subscribers. That means Yellowstone, House, Law & Order, The Office, Suits, Charmed, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 30 Rock, Seth Myers, Parks & Rec, SNL, Jimmy Fallon. Meanwhile, the “Channels” section offers local and national news channels, and portals for popular properties (Chrisley Knows Best, Fallon Tonight – for example).
Currently, Peacock original content lineup is just second-rate network TV. The Bel-Air and Saved by The Bell revivals weren’t great, and Girls5Eva was awful. Comedy-thriller The Resort is getting a little buzz, however, and Love Island USA is going to attract eyeballs, obviously.
- Stable streaming performance
The Peacock app, while clunky on smart TVs, has become more reliable following some early issues with pre-roll ads. I suffered very few hiccups with streaming shows or downloading them for offline viewing on mobile.
But that’s aided by most of the content maxing out at HD resolution. Peacock recommends 3Mbps should be adequate for that, but 8Mbps for 4K content and live events.
Should you buy it?
If you love the Premier League and WWE, you simply can’t be without Peacock – and for as little as $4.99 a month, it’s a no brainer. It’s also a good option if you’re a cord-cutter who wants to catch up on recent telly and archive comedies. There’s also an argument for signing up to watch a post-cinema release movie (such as Nope) at home and ducking out again.
Peacock is entirely skippable if you subtract the big sporting properties. The originals aren’t good enough to sign-up and a lot of everything else is on free TV or Hulu (where you get way more too). There’s been very little effort to embrace advanced viewing/audio format, if that’s something you care about.
As a Premier League obsessive and some-time WWE fan, Peacock is an easy call for me. Here, take my $5 a month. Beyond that, however, Peacock is quite a tough sell amidst the current competition. As a service, Peacock performs well, but without great or buzzworthy original content, it feels unessential compared to Apple TV Plus and Netflix. With only the recent addition of Harry Potter, it lacks the monolith franchises of Disney, HBO and co. The scant regard for modern viewing standards also feels galling. I’d put it in the same tier as ESPN Plus or Paramount Plus; worth it only for die-hard fans.
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Tested on mobile apps (iPhone/iPad)
Used primarily on 2021 LG smart TV via an Apple TV set-top box
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No, you need to be on one of the Premium tiers.
Not yet, although Peacock says it will be added to Premier League games in 2023.
Peacock Free offers a decent selection of shows and movies form NBC’s current and archive lineups. There’s even some episodes of original shows and some WWE content. It isn’t the full library and you will see ads.
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