Peacock's free subscription tier may be the streaming service's greatest strength: As the so-called streaming wars rage on and massive newcomers HBO Max, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus vie for your monthly payment, none have offered a free option. And while older mainstay Hulu offers the option to watch with or without ads, you still have to pay $6 a month for the ad-supported plan. CBS All Access uses the same model, too.
You can sign up for the free version of Peacock, well, for free: All you need to do is create an account with your email and a password. No credit card is required, unless you decide to try the seven-day free trial of either premium tier.
The free tier includes access to about two-thirds of Peacock's library: roughly 13,000 hours of ad-supported programming. You'll find shows, movies, news, live sports and skit-style clips, with standouts including Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Yellowstone and The Bourne Identity. However, some of the standout titles at launch, including the original Jurassic Park films and The Matrix trilogy, have already been taken off the platform.
You'll also be able to watch new episodes of current NBC shows one week after they air, including hits like This Is Us and The Blacklist. In terms of sports, the free tier includes some Premier League soccer matches, coverage of the US Open Championship and the Women's Open Championships, an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game, and certain events from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
Because it's free, you will see some ads: Peacock promises five minutes or less per hour. From what I can tell based on my testing, the way the ads appear seems to depend on your device and the show you're watching. While watching Jurassic Park (which, as of Aug. 1, has expired on Peacock and moved over to Netflix) on an Apple TV and a MacBook Air, for example, I saw six ads sprinkled throughout the film, ranging from 20 to 60 seconds each. But when I started the movie on the iPhone app, I got a notice that I would watch 190 seconds of ads at the beginning, and none for the rest. I'd love to have that option on my Apple TV too to get the ads out of the way, but you don't get to choose your ad format.
The free tier will give you a couple of episodes of Peacock Originals to watch, but you'll have to upgrade to premium to see full seasons. At launch, there are seven originals: Brave New World, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, The Capture, Intelligence, Cleopatra In Space, Curious George and Where's Waldo?
Signing up for the free version of Peacock is kind of a no-brainer. Sure, it won't replace your Netflix or Hulu subscription. But for casual viewers, it's a great option for finding older movies and shows you've missed or want to watch again, and for keeping up with current NBC shows -- as long as you don't mind some ads.