Friday brought to market yet another premium streaming service, with Apple TV+ giving viewers a new batch of Peak TV to spend their spare time in front of screens streaming. But even more are on the horizon, with Disney+ bringing a massive catalog of classic movies and new Disney, Marvel and Star Wars content to fans later this year.
The streaming wars are putting a strain on the budgets of consumers who want it all, but there’s some talk that at least one streaming giant with some very popular titles may go freemium rather than premium when the service comes online. NBC, which is prepping its Peacock streaming platform and already has plans to move The Office there once its Netflix deal runs out, may be free.
According to CNBC’s Alex Sherman, NBC Universal is toying with the idea of giving an ad-supported Peacock to customers for free.
Previously, Comcast had planned on making Peacock free only to cable subscribers and Comcast broadband customers. The new plan, which is still under consideration, would be to give away the ad-supported Peacock streaming service to anyone who wants it. An ad-free product would also be available but will come with a charge, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
Giving fans of The Office and other shows an easy entrance into the platform would be a huge boon to its adaptation, as price is an obvious barrier to getting people interested in a new monthly service in a crowded market. We’ve seen Disney+ try bundling services at a low price as a way to get people on board, and Apple TV+ is hoping $5 a month is low enough to get people hooked on its big-budget shows. But dangling hugely popular shows like The Office without a price tag would eliminate virtually any barrier to getting fans who want to see Jim and Pam involved here. And the service is set to include much more than just Dunder Mifflin content, whether that reboot is coming or not.
NBC’s Peacock will have more than 15,000 hours of content and will include new shows from Mike Schur, the creator of “The Good Place,” and Lorne Michaels, who founded “Saturday Night Live,” as well as back episodes of shows including “Parks and Recreation,” “Cheers,” and “The Office,” for which NBC paid $500 million for five years to snatch the rights from Netflix. Still, NBC won’t get rights to “The Office” until 2021 and it may take some time for new originals to generate buzz, which could limit the appeal of a paid subscription service.
Peacock will air between three and five minutes of ads per hour of programming, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told CNBC in January. NBC expects to make $5 per month from every user on the service from advertising, he said.
A more skeptical read of the situation, however, is that initially debuting Peacock for free to grow its user base may turn into a subscription service once those deals for The Office and other properties actually kick in. The report mentioned a free subscription may not include the full features NBC has planned for Peacock, so there could be a number of service tiers at play here that could gradually scale up in price. All of that remains undefined, though.
We’ve already seen just how important The Office is in the streaming wars, so this would be a big play by NBC. Developing a streaming platform is expensive and giving it away for free takes away a huge potential revenue stream, though the service will still run ads and offer a premium ad-free experience like Hulu currently does. It’s uncertain that they’ll actually go freemium here, but it would be a bold strike in the streaming wars if they pulled it off.