NBC's Peacock looks like a stream-ified version of Comcast X1 cable

Peacock's design takes cues from cable boxes and looks more elaborate than Netflix or Disney Plus.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Peacock has three main home screens, including a "trending" hub with buzzy, newsy content. 


The new Peacock streaming service launches Wednesday for Comcast customers -- and to them, it will probably feel familiar. Rather than creating another Netflix interface knockoff, Peacock adopts an atypical, complex look for its first iteration on Comcast's TV boxes. But its nationwide launch in July, when everyone can get hold of Peacock on other TV streamers, phones and other devices, will really test whether that complexity appeals to people who aren't already familiar with Comcast.

Peacock -- which NBCUniversal is launching Wednesday first for people who have the X1 cable service or Flex streaming-video service from its parent company, Comcast -- provided a glimpse into the service in a prerecorded demo of its app for big-screen televisions Tuesday. 

When the app opens, it starts playing video automatically, like your cable service would when you switch on your TV. In the demo, it went straight into showing the monologue Tom Hanks shot in his home for last weekend's Saturday Night Live

This autoplay startup defaults to Peacock's "trending" home screen, one of three main interfaces. In addition to trending, there is a "channels" home screen and a "browse" one, which is the one that looks most like Netflix. Over time, these home screens will grow more algorithmically curated to be personalized to your taste. Peacock will also work with voice commands using Flex and X1 remotes.

The trending home screen is supposed to be home to buzzy snackable content, trailers of what's on the service and newsy items. The home screen will update throughout the day, and it runs in a sort of thread of content that you can hop around in -- represented visually with a vertical line with different beads on it for a new program. 


Peacock's channels screen is arranged in a grid that should be familiar to cable box users.


The Channels home screen is the so-called "lean-back mode" of Peacock. At launch, it has 20 branded channels that are editorially curated -- they range from things like NBC News and Sky News to whole channels dedicated to programs like SNL or throwbacks like Unsolved Mysteries. These are 24-hour linear lineups of programming all oriented around a theme. It's a way that "streaming can be a sandbox for us to rethink how we develop channels in the future," Matt Strauss, the head of Peacock and chairman of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said in the demo. 

Later this year and as Peacock becomes available throughout the US, the service will add another 20 to 30 channels. It will also update to let viewers skip ahead in the channels' schedules so they have more control over what they're watching there. 


The browse screen looks the most like traditional Netflix.


For the most control over what you watch, Peacock's third home screen -- "browse" -- is a more standard, on-demand interface, following the general design principles established by Netflix. Peacock will have 15,000 hours of content, and this is the main place to find it all. 

At the top of the browse page is a big carousel of "hero" tiles with featured content, followed by smaller carousels of tiles underneath. They range from standards like "continue watching" and a watch list of items you've tagged. Then others are editorial collections, like "Peacock Picks." It will also have a carousel with previews of Peacock original shows that are coming. 

In a handy feature, when you highlight one of the items in a carousel, the image surfaces the Rotten Tomatoes score of that show or movie.

From the main browse menu, you can also toggle over to more specialized screens for TV shows, movies, kids, news, sports and Latino programming. 

When you select a title, Peacock will give you options to start watching, to follow it, to choose from its list of episode (if it's a series), and resume the episode where you left off if you're already in the midst of watching. Below that, Peacock gives you algorithmic recommendations of other things you might like and, below that, offers clips related to that title.

Other touches include ratings from Common Sense media to help parents make more informed decisions about what to let young ones watch. Its news section is relatively unique to Peacock, since most streaming services focus so much on evergreen, on-demand programming. Sports is where Peacock will highlight the Olympics when they finally happen next year, as well as Premier League soccer, the NFL wildcard game and highlight clips from NBC Sports. 

Peacock will wait until its national launch in July to roll out apps for mobile devices and TV-connected devices like Roku and Apple TV , as well as web streaming. 

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