Peacock isn't on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, entrenching a battle line
NBC's streaming app, like HBO Max before it, isn't available on the devices people stream to TVs most. It's a standoff between tech and media giants, and you're stuck in the middle.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
ExpertiseStreaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation onlineCredentials
Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Peacock, the streaming service from Comcast's NBCUniversal, launched Wednesday across a range of the biggest devices, but the two most popular ones to stream to televisions are missing: Roku and Amazon's Fire TV. It's a replay of the same standoff in May that pit Roku and Amazon against AT&T's HBO Max, marking a new stage in the evolution of streaming video, one that puts people like you in the middle of a power battle.
Streaming has grown more popular than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, amplifying the long trend of people watching more of their video online. Now, the most powerful TV app distributors and deep-pocketed media companies are drawing their battle lines for control of the data and money generated by your streaming activity, as they try to entrench positions of power for the next era of TV.
In the meantime, it means you can't watch all the top streaming services on all the top devices.
Peacock said Tuesday that remains in talks with additional partners.
"The Peacock app is ready to launch across platforms with the flip of a switch," a Peacock spokeswoman said. "We think it's important for consumers to know that Peacock is free to use and free to any platform who wants to distribute it. If Peacock is not available on a platform at launch, it is not because we didn't make it available, and it's not because we didn't make it available for free."
"Consumers have purchased these devices with the expectation they will be able to access all of the apps, so our hope is that all platforms will do right by their users and carry it," she added.
Roku said it wants to bring Peacock to its "large customer base of avid streamers." But that it is "disappointing" Comcast "refused reasonable and standard industry terms," Roku said in a statement, adding that Peacock was trying to launch a service supported by advertising without sharing that ad model with a distributor like Roku.
"This shows a basic misunderstanding of what drives success in today's modern streaming world, where successful publishers collaborate on advertising and achieve strong results by leaning into the unique tools we offer," Roku said in a statement.
But rather than serving as neutral platforms for apps, Roku and Amazon both have become more assertive in their talks with new streaming services lately, and media companies are more invested in reaping the greatest reward possible from their products, leading to impasses.
Competing with the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max, Peacock is the last big new service to roll out in the so-called streaming wars, when a flood of services spilled out from tech and media giants over a roughly seven-month period. In the case of Peacock, it means even a traditional TV and cable company like Comcast is betting that the tide of cord-cutting won't turn.
These battles will shape the fate of companies vying to rule television's future, but they'll also affect how many services you have to use and pay for to watch your favorite TV and movies. And the standoffs pitting distribution companies like Roku and Amazon against streaming services like Comcast's Peacock and AT&T's HBO Max can hamstring viewers hoping to watch on some of their favorite devices.
Peacock launched Wednesday in the US with an always-free tier that lets you sample about two-thirds of its library with advertising, as well as premium tiers that unlock the full catalog. Peacock Premium is $5 a month, or $50 a year with advertising, or you can upgrade to an ad-free version for $10 a month or $100 a year.
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