Peacock: What's Paywalled (Emmys), What's Free and What Else to Know
Peacock streams free movies and shows, but you need to pay to unlock everything, including the live Emmy Awards telecast Monday.
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 TV is NBCUniversal's US streaming app, with tens of thousands of hours of free programming, plus more shows, movies, sports and originals if you pay. Monday, Peacock is the only place in the US to stream the 2022 Emmy Awards ceremony live -- but only if you have one of the paid, premium subscriptions.
Peacock was one of a flood of new streaming services from tech and media giants that launched over the last two years. Competitors include other new services, like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus (the revamp of CBS All Access) and HBO Max, as well as vets like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
But Peacock is unusual among these rivals in that it offers a free tier. It also has live sports and news; most of the newest streaming services are focused squarely on video-on-demand entertainment along the lines of Netflix.
It's available for premium subscribers only, so people who have a free account will need to upgrade or figure out if they qualify for a discount.
How much does Peacock cost, and what's the deal with the free tier?
Peacock has three tiers: a limited one that's free, an all-inclusive one that's $5 a month with ads and an all-inclusive one that's $10 a month without ads.
The free tier limits how much you can watch. For example, Peacock offers only select episodes of its originals free, withholding the rest inside its paywall. Free accounts can watch one episode of Yellowstone and the first two seasons of The Office, but no more. And though many movies are available on this free tier, some of the most high-profile and newest ones are blocked unless you upgrade. This limited free tier has access to roughly two-thirds of Peacock's total catalog of movies, current season TV, TV classics, curated daily news, sports, Hispanic programming and curated channels.
Crucially, almost all of Peacock's live sports are behind the paywall. That means to watch NFL Sunday Night Football, any Premier League matches or live Olympics coverage, you need to pay.
The paid tiers are basically all-access passes to the full catalog on the service. Peacock Premium is $5 a month or $50 a year with advertising, or you can upgrade to Peacock Premium Plus for ad-free viewing at $10 a month or $100 a year (this Premium Plus tier is also the only one that lets you download to watch offline).
The tiers with advertising are supposed to have no more than five minutes of commercials per hour.
Are there deals or discounts to get Peacock's premium tiers free?
Some people can score discounts that cut the cost of Peacock if they're already customers of certain cable companies. Peacock gives Comcast X1 and Flex subscribers the paid versions of the service at a $5 discount. So if they want to watch with advertising, they pay nothing for Peacock Premium; if they want to watch ad-free, they need to pay $5 a month for Premium Plus.
Cox customers also get that $5-off deal. Peacock has said it's working on partnerships to offer this discount to a wider array of consumers.
And Spectrum video and broadband customers to get an extended free trial to Peacock, thanks to a deal with parent company Charter Communications. Qualified Spectrum TV customers get a year-long free trial, and qualified Spectrum internet customers get 90 days.
The pricing at Peacock's competition runs the gamut.
Among the services that have ad-supported options, Hulu is $6 a month with ads and $12 a month ad-free. CBS All Access charges $6 for its tier with advertising, and $10 for the ad-free version.
By comparison, Netflix, which has no ads, offers its cheapest tier at $10 a month, while its most popular plan is $15.50. Apple TV Plus is $5 a month, Disney Plus is $7 a month and HBO Max is $15 a month. None of them includes advertising (and of those only Apple TV Plus has any live sports to speak of yet).
And none of these competitors -- whether with ads or without -- offers a free tier like Peacock's.
No, Peacock quietly ended its free trial as a standard offer to new subscribers in late 2021.
When will Minions: The Rise of Gru and Nope start streaming?
Minions: The Rise of Gru is set to begin streaming on Sept. 23. You'll need a premium membership, because free accounts will be locked out.
For Nope, Peacock hasn't confirmed a streaming release date yet. Generally, Peacock should start streaming films sometime starting 45 days after theatrical release but no later than 120 days after they hit cinemas.
For Nope, it could have started streaming it as soon as Sept. 5, or it could wait as late as Nov. 18.
But streaming release dates are unpredictable.
This year, Universal has released movies like Marry Me and Firestarter on Peacock to stream the same day they hit theaters, so you didn't have to wait at all -- and it'll do it again with Halloween Ends, which will be available for same-day streaming when it lands in cinemas Oct. 14. On the other hand, The Northman, a historical action movie that Universal's Focus Features division distributed in the US, hit Peacock after only 42 days, but then Jurassic World Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru were given much longer theatrical exclusives, at 84 days in cinemas before streaming.
Wildcards like these make streaming release dates harder to predict.
What is happening to NBC programming on Hulu?
For now, NBC's shows are still streaming on Hulu, but they'll be disappearing soon.
NBC was a partner in Hulu for years, but NBCUniversal-owner Comcast struck a deal with Disney to give it control of Hulu. That deal included terms that essentially allowed NBC to have programming stream both on Hulu and on Peacock at the same time.
But in March, NBCUniversal officially terminated its next-day TV streaming deal with Hulu. That means that in late September, NBC shows won't be available to stream on Hulu the day after they air. Past episodes will be disappearing from Peacock's library too.
What's up with WWE on Peacock?
Peacock is now the only place to stream the WWE Network.
In 2021, Peacock began rolling out WWE programming just before Fastlane, the first WWE "pay-per-view" event streaming on Peacock. (All so-called pay-per-view WWE events are available to Peacock premium subscribers at no added cost.)
Any legacy subscribers to the previous WWE Network app and service were required to sign up for Peacock to keep watching. The upside to this change is that now WWE Network, including all "pay-per-view" events, will be available on Peacock Premium for $5, or half the price of the WWE Network's old service. Peacock's $10-a-month tier will be able to access all the same WWE programming; the only difference between being a $5 subscriber and a $10 one is that the priciest tier strips out advertising -- there's no difference in what you get to watch.
Peacock has a dedicated WWE page to browse and stream all of its WWE programming. Peacock's paid tiers are also home to all upcoming pay-per-view events (they're called "pay-per-view" but there's no additional cost to watch them on Peacock), as well as the current seasons of WWE Original shows.
On the free tier, Peacock will also offer a new WWE "channel" with select WWE Original shows; reality shows such as Miz and Mrs., Total Bellas and Total Divas; recent in-ring content. It'll also have new weekly episodes of select live shows including RAW Talk and The Bump,both live and on demand.
What devices can stream Peacock?
Peacock is available on the web at Peacocktv.com, and it's supported on:
Apple devices like iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD.
Google devices including Android phones and tablets, and Android TV devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices.
Xbox One consoles.
Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles.
Vizio SmartCast TVs.
LG Smart TVs.
Amazon Fire TV
To check the exact models that support Peacock, check the service's support page.
What service features does Peacock have?
Up to three devices can stream Peacock simultaneously from a single account.
Peacock won't require accounts to register devices with the service, nor will it limit the number of devices a single account can use to stream.
It won't support profiles yet, a feature that typically allows for various members of a household to keep their viewing and recommendations separate. That feature is also on the roadmap, Peacock said.
Parental controls are managed by a PIN.
Mobile downloads are available for those who subscribe to its top tier, Premium Plus.
The app's user interface will be in English only. The programming on Peacock will support any language audio or subtitles tracks that come with a specific title. At launch, it'll have some content with Spanish language tracks and subtitles.
Shows and movies: What's available to watch on Peacock?
Since Peacock has a free tier, the easiest way to get a sense of what's on Peacock is to browse the service itself, although you'll need to register an account with an email address to do so. If you don't want to hand over an email, you can also check third-party sites like Reelgood, which track streaming services' catalogs, to get a sense of what's available to watch.
Generally speaking, the service's programming leans into NBCUniversal's back catalog and its franchises, but there are a couple of complexities there too.
Peacock is licensing programming from other companies. A deal with Paramount, for example, gives Peacock past seasons of Yellowstone, the hit cowboy drama on the Paramount Network.
Peacock's free tier includes:
Next-day access to current seasons of NBC broadcast shows in their first season, known as freshmen series.
Next-week access (i.e., one week after episodes air) to current seasons of returning NBC broadcast shows.
Select episodes of marquee Peacock originals (but not full seasons).
Curated genre channels, which NBC has characterized as things like SNL Vault, Family Movie Night and Olympic Profiles.
Selections of classic series and popular movies.
Curated daily news and sports programming, including the Olympics.
With the Premium membership, you basically get an all-access pass. It includes everything on the free tier plus:
Full seasons of Peacock originals.
Next-day access to current seasons of returning NBC broadcast shows.
Early access to NBC's late-night talk shows. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will stream early on Peacock and Late Night with Seth Meyers at 8 p.m. ET -- but this perk will begin only when the shows return to in-studio production.
Full access to Peacock's library of shows and movies.
Peacock also includes live programming, including the summer and winter Olympics. Select programming from the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics streamed on the free tier, but full live Olympics coverage required a paid account.
As far as news programming, Peacock draws from brands like NBC News, Sky News, MSNBC and CNBC. It'll stream same-day broadcasts of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd; live news channels will include NBC News Now, Sky News and NBC/Sky Global News (a new channel); it'll feature clips from Today, CNBC, MSNBC, E! News, NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press; and it'll widen into original content from the Meet the Press franchise, investigative documentaries including full seasons of Dateline and Lock Up, and library documentaries from NBC News and CNBC.
For its originals, the company generally tends to rely on new series from talent with a long track record at NBC, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. It's also betting on reboots of shows in its catalog with an enduring appeal. It's announced a revival of Battlestar Galactica (itself a reboot of the 1970s sci-fi series) by Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail and released reboots of Punky Brewster, Saved by the Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. According to Deadline, NBCUniversal hoped to make a reboot of The Office, which itself was a remake of a British series.
But not all Peacock's original programming comes straight from NBCUniversal's family tree. Some original titles, like Brave New World, are fresh projects just for Peacock.