YOU HAD TO SEE THAT COMING: NBC announces “Peacock” streaming service

In what may be the most obvious move ever, NBC/Comcast announced yesterday that they, too, will have a new streaming service. This parallels similar moves from Disney, Warner, CBS, and virtually everyone else on the planet. I presume by this time tomorrow my neighbor’s dog will have a streaming service.

It’s pretty much what you expect

Peacock, as they call it, will be the home for all of Comcast’s catalog content as well as shows that have aired on NBC in the past. Notably, by 2020 this may be the only place you can see Parks and Recreation and The Office. There will also be plenty of movies from the Universal Studios back catalog, as Comcast owns them too.

Comcast is taking a more Hulu-like approach here, as compared to its competitors Disney and AT&T. Without a lot of detail, they have announced that there will be commercial-laden and commercial-free tiers of the service. No pricing information has been announced yet. The service is expected to launch during the 2020 Olympics, which are covered exclusively by Comcast-owned stations.

A word about the name

A lot of media outlets are fixated on the name. Yeah let’s get this out of the way. It has pee in it, it has cock in it. But grow up, you’re not in the first grade. NBC has used the peacock, with its colorful plumage, as a symbol of its high-technology television for half a century. OK, I agree that they could have come up with another name for it that sounded more contemporary, like “NBC Max” or “NBC+.” But they didn’t. If you can’t say “peacock” without giggling, that’s on you not on them.

Where does this leave Netflix and Hulu?

There’s the real question. Netflix pioneered streaming video, and as I’ve said multiple times before, they used to be the only place I ever went. Hulu was originally founded by a coalition of the major broadcast networks as a way to jumpstart streaming technology.

So, Netflix is irrelevant now. I’ve said it already. Their catalog content is disappearing quickly and their original content is really inconsistent. For every Orange is the New Black there are ten weird movies that would have never seen the light of day if Netflix hadn’t paid for them. I don’t know what their next step is but I may not subscribe long enough to find out at this point.

Netflix clearly seems on the road to obsolescence and I’m beginning to think that Hulu is fast on their heels. Hulu is now an organ of the Walt Disney organization, now that two of their partner-operators (ABC and FOX) are Disney properties. But, their problems didn’t start there. Like everyone else, they want to rely on original programming but their one hit — The Handmaid’s Tale — has been a disappointment in the last two seasons as its producers try to stretch the tale past the point where the book stopped.

It seems like the days of the big, catch-all type streaming service are over. Without much of its NBC content, Hulu is nothing more than a place to get Fox and ABC content. This leaves Prime Video as the last big streaming service not attached to a studio, the last one that can be counted on for content from across the studio system. At least, of course, until every studio takes back their content and makes you use their app.

Where does this leave consumers?

At this point you have to look at what it really takes to get content from all the major content providers. If you keep Netflix and Hulu and factor in the cost of CBS All Access, Peacock, HBO Max, and Disney+, you’re already at about $70 a month, which doesn’t even give you any live TV at all. Add a live TV streaming service and you’re paying well north of $100.

I suspect that people will have to be more careful in what services they keep. I’ve already started cutting out services like CBS All Access when they don’t have a show I care about. I am guessing a lot of other people will do that too. The streamers make it easy for you to quit… that’s what people like about them. But it could also be their downfall. Disney is smart in offering people a yearly subscription. This will keep them from canceling quickly.

I think we’re moving closer and closer to a 2-tier system. I think that probably 90% of streaming services will be either free or cost less than $5 a month. But, they’ll have commercials. If you want commercial-free, you’ll end up renting individual movies or subscribing to a series. Does that sound so far fetched? People have said that the only thing they watch on Netflix is Friends. What if you could just pay 99 cents a month to watch nothing but Friends? That’s where it’s going I think.

As for the rest of the streaming services, the premium ones like Disney+ and HBO Max, I see the prices going up to the point where you can really only afford one of them at a time. So you’ll pick and choose the one you want for that month and cancel when you get the urge to move on.