Streaming has come a long way from just a few big-name options with a slew of licensed content and a handful of original series. Today, you can sit down and watch the latest movies, get caught up in creative and vibrant TV shows, revisit old favorites, and even tune in to live programming, all from the comfort of your living room.
Flexibility is key in this new age of media, and Peacock — the streaming arm of NBCUniversal — is doing its best to give the people what they want as it continues to expand. Having launched in 2020, Peacock is still considered one of the newer platforms, so its content library is very much in a “growth” phase. But thanks to its parent company, the service already boasts marquee offerings, including some of TV’s most iconic shows and tons of live sporting events.
As a longtime streaming fan, it was about time that I tested Peacock for myself. Most of my current subscriptions lack live TV viewing options, so I was particularly interested in scrolling through the platform’s available channels, as well as catching up on a couple of buzzy shows I’ve missed in recent years. Here’s how Peacock fared after nearly three weeks in my streaming rotation.
- Name: Amanda Prahl
- My streaming habits: I typically watch about three hours of TV per day (or just over 20 hours per week), usually after work and in the evenings.
- What I like to watch: I watch a wide variety of programming, but I especially love smart, witty comedies and dramedies, historical shows, and some sci-fi and fantasy. I occasionally watch sports, but mainly stick to big events.
- No. of hours spent testing: 25
How We Tested Peacock
Over the course of nearly three weeks, I spent approximately 25 hours testing Peacock, streaming content via the mobile app (on an iPhone) and through the desktop of a MacBook on both Chrome and Firefox browsers. Throughout the testing period, I viewed both on-demand and live TV content, including programming with ad breaks, and chose a mix of original offerings along with previously aired shows and movies.
While watching, I noted the back catalog and the quantity and quality of original programming available. I also evaluated the ease of navigation across different devices, how the ads on the platform work, the live viewing options, and more. Because I already subscribe to a couple of other streaming services (mostly ones without live TV), it was important for me to test as many of Peacock’s capabilities as possible to determine whether it fills enough gaps in my current streaming lineup to be worth an ongoing subscription.
Peacock Key Specs
What You Need To Know
- Our rating: 4 out of 5 stars
- Base price: $5.99/month
- Free trial? Sort of
- No. of plans: 2
- No. of concurrent streams: 3
- Ad-free plan? Yes (with limited exclusions)
- Option to record? No
Pros & Cons
- Pricing starts at $5.99 per month, making it one of the cheapest plans in streaming
- Wide variety of content
- Significantly more live sports options than competitors
- Premium Plus plan includes live access to local NBC affiliate
- Does not offer a true free trial
- All plans have at least some ads
- Original content doesn’t make a big impact
Peacock offers two pricing tiers: the Premium plan ($5.99/month) and the Premium Plus plan ($11.99/month). Users who sign up for an annual subscription get an approximately 17 percent discount (or the equivalent of two months free).
For the quantity and quality of content, I’d say Peacock’s current pricing structure is pretty fair, and it’s certainly competitive with similar offerings from other studio/network-driven streaming services like Paramount+ (starting at $5.99/month) and Max (starting at $9.99/month). For sports fans, live offerings like Sunday Night Football and Premier League matches also provide great value for the price.
One quibble I do have, however, is that the Premium Plus plan is not truly ad-free — though, to be fair, subscribers are warned about this when they sign up. There are limited ads (usually five minutes or less per hour) on select on-demand content, as well as on live programming like sporting events and your local NBC station. Compared to other streaming services’ “ad-free” tiers, Peacock’s Premium Plus plan is a little cheaper, which makes the trade-off mostly worth it if you strongly prefer a streaming experience with minimal interruptions.
Compare base prices across competitors:
Top Shows on Peacock
Peacock is a newer entrant into the streaming wars, so its library of TV originals is a little slimmer than some of the older, more established services. The crown jewel has to be Poker Face, a quirky and whip-smart mystery series starring Natasha Lyonne as a casino cocktail waitress with an uncanny knack for knowing when people are lying. Other standouts include excellent comedies such as Girls5eva and A.P. Bio, intriguing reboots like Bel-Air and Saved by the Bell, and sci-fi/fantasy shows, including the wonderfully weird Mrs. Davis and the engrossing Vampire Academy.
As someone who loves rewatching old favorites over and over, I was pleased to see that Peacock’s library contains plenty of classics from NBC over the years, such as 30 Rock, Community, Friday Night Lights, Parks & Recreation, Cheers, Frasier, Heroes, This Is Us, and, of course, The Office.
You’ll also find plenty of non-NBC hits, including Downton Abbey, Psych, Suits, House, and Monk. Reality TV fans will appreciate the Bravo hub, which features dozens of seasons of the Real Housewives franchise and its many spinoffs, plus the complete catalogs (including brand-new episodes) of competition shows like Project Runway. And if you’re into TV “comfort food,” Peacock offers a deep bench of Hallmark Channel movies and series.
Currently airing programs, like the web of shows in the One Chicago and Law & Order universes, also have an extensive presence on Peacock, and subscribers can usually stream new episodes the same day they air. However, there are still a handful of big-name NBC shows that you might expect to see on Peacock but won’t find (presumably until current licensing contracts expire); for instance, Seinfeld can only be streamed on Netflix, while Max has the rights to Friends and The West Wing.
Peacock Premium & Premium Plus
I signed up for Peacock’s Premium Plus tier, which is different from the Premium tier in three ways:
- Premium Plus is mostly ad-free, aside from live broadcasts and certain shows with licensing requirements.
- Premium Plus subscribers can tune in to their local NBC station and watch live anytime (with ads).
- Premium Plus allows subscribers to download select titles for offline viewing.
For these three perks, I paid an extra $6 per month. If you’re used to your streaming experience being mostly ad-free, it may be worth the extra money for the convenience. But if you don’t mind ads and don’t do much offline viewing, you can stick with the lower-priced Premium plan and still get all the same content as Premium Plus (minus a live NBC feed).
Although I’ve gotten used to watching shows ad free on streaming, I was surprised to find that the commercials didn’t bother me when they popped up. Especially with the recent price hike (from $4.99 to $5.99 for Premium and $9.99 to $11.99 for Premium Plus), I don’t think I’d continue paying double the price just to avoid ads and see a live local feed.
Peacock’s User Experience
The user experience on Peacock is pretty similar to what I’ve encountered on other streaming platforms — no one is reinventing the wheel here. I found both the desktop and mobile interfaces pretty intuitive and easy to navigate, with clear labels that get you where you need to go quickly. The homepage features a top navigation bar, with options that take you to TV, movies, sports, WWE, channels, and “My Stuff,” a tab that allows you to bookmark and save selections to watch later.
When I first began using Peacock, I used the tab to make myself a “watch list” of shows I was most eager to binge, like Poker Face and Mrs. Davis, but I didn’t find myself using the page very often. I was somewhat disappointed with the homepage algorithm, which didn’t show me many interesting recommendations.
While there aren’t a ton of customization options on Peacock, there’s one feature that I really liked: the ability to customize closed captions. You can choose between three font sizes, eight fonts, and several color combinations for the text, shadow, and background. Because bright colors and stark contrast often hurt my eyes, I chose to stick with the default, medium-sized font in white on a black background. It’s fun for aesthetics, but it’s also great for improving accessibility. Peacock’s closed-caption offerings are almost identical to Netflix’s current options, and while Disney+ does provide more customization in this area, Peacock’s settings are easier to use since you can only access subtitles on Disney+ while actively watching a program.
Overall, I found the video to load and play smoothly with a sharp image — the only noticeable speed bump was an occasional low-quality picture for the first few seconds of a live event. Most content is available in 1080p for subscribers of both tiers, but 4K HD streaming (on compatible devices) is only available for a limited number of titles. 4K shows and movies have a “badge” in their information section noting the higher-quality streaming.
New customers can sign up for a free account, which gives them access to the user interface and the ability to view Peacock’s library. However, the free trial is heavily restricted to a handful of preview episodes from certain TV shows, along with a few live talk and news broadcasts. For instance, free accounts can only view the first episodes of most Peacock originals, and some NBC favorites (including The Office) are completely paywalled. To watch the majority of content, you’ll need to sign up for either the $5.99 per month Premium plan or the $11.99 per month Premium Plus plan.
Peacock does offer a “Channels” feature, imitating the feel of live TV channels but with curated content from the streamer. When you first click on the Channels tab — which is easy to find in the top navigation bar — you’re brought to a screen that’s charmingly reminiscent of old-school TV guides. By default, the top-listed channel for Premium Plus members is a live feed of your local NBC station. For the most part, the channels are not actually “live” broadcasts of an existing TV station, although there are a couple that mirror linear channel programming, such as the Hallmark Channel option.
Instead, most channels revolve around either a specific theme or even a single TV show. You can watch pre-selected “favorite” episodes from shows like Law & Order, The Office, Modern Family, Saturday Night Live, and many others. You can also tune in to Peacock’s curated collection channels, which feature a variety of movies and TV that fit into categories like “Summer Blockbusters,” “Sitcom Staples,” “Women-Led Favorites,” and “Classic TV.”
A handful of sports and news channels are also included in the lineup, with event replays, commentary, documentaries, and more. When watching a channel, you cannot rewind, which is a bit frustrating given that most live TV viewing today allows for some form of rewind.
Peacock allows you to create “Kids” profiles on your account with parental controls to limit what programming is available to younger users. There are three maturity ratings to choose from on a Kids profile:
- Little Kids: Limited to programming rated TV-Y.
- Older Kids: Limited to programming rated TV-Y, TV-Y7 FV, TV-G, and G; suitable for ages 7 and up with limited fantasy violence.
- Family: Includes programming up to TV-PG and PG, which may include some content unsuitable for younger children.
Adult profiles can also filter out content by rating, starting with the same “Family” level (PG-rated movies and TV), followed by “Teen” (up to PG-13 or TV-14) and “Adult” (no rating restrictions). I learned that the account holder is able to lock profiles with a four-digit PIN to prevent kids from accessing adult content or editing restrictions. You can set different parameters for each individual profile, which is great for households that have children at different maturity levels. The one downside is that Peacock does not currently offer the option to filter content individually. You can limit content in bulk by rating, but you can’t add individual shows or movies to a “no-watch” list.
Live sports is one of the biggest draws for Peacock subscribers thanks to its robust selection of games, along with notable sports documentaries, commentary, and related content. You’ll find weekly major league matchups, including MLB Sunday Leadoff, Premier League Soccer, and NFL’s Sunday Night Football. However, it’s important to note that Peacock does not stream every game in a league (typically just one or two marquee matchups each week during the season). You’ll also find IndyCar races, plenty of golf, WWE, and seasonal sports like cycling, track and field, tennis, swimming, skiing, and many others.
The breadth of content varies between sports, as does the ability to watch back previous events. For instance, when I viewed the Sports hub in the middle of summer, I could choose to replay several full skiing events from five or six months earlier, while the basketball section had no replays at all, only news and documentaries. Other sports have even thinner offerings. I’m personally a big fan of figure skating, but while Peacock is the official live streaming home for figure skating in the U.S. — as well as major worldwide sporting events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup — there was no figure skating content available for me to watch.
Peacock vs. Paramount+
Generally speaking, Peacock and Paramount+ are probably more similar to one another than they are to other competitors in the streaming game. Both are built off of the content library of a specific network — Paramount+ used to be named CBS All Access — and both offer significant live sports options and broadcasts of their respective local TV affiliates. The interface and overall user experience is pretty consistent on both, too, including themed “channel” features. Plus, their pricing is currently identical.
In broad strokes, Peacock has the edge when it comes to original content. There’s simply more variety there at the moment, so it’s likelier to appeal to a wider audience. Paramount+ is a little stronger on the drama and genre-show side (The Good Fight, 1923), where Peacock excels in comedy and has a slightly more diverse mix of sporting events.
Peacock has another notable content advantage over Paramount+: As of this writing, it has not begun to “purge” its content library by removing canceled shows from the platform altogether, a move that has courted controversy for Paramount+. That alone is a major plus in my book; since streaming has largely decimated the market for physical media, it’s enormously frustrating to see titles — no matter how short-lived — become entirely and permanently unavailable. While it’s possible that Peacock hasn’t joined the content purge trend simply because it has yet to build up a large enough original library, it’s still a relief to see.
Is Peacock Worth It?
Peacock is well on its way to becoming a strong competitor in the streaming service space, although it hasn’t quite reached must-have status yet. Big-name favorites like The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks & Recreation live on the platform and are sure to be a continued draw for a long time, although Peacock is still searching for its blockbuster original hit (here’s hoping I’ve convinced at least a few people to watch the fabulous Poker Face).
If you’re a big fan of live sports, looking for a hefty library of “comfort food” favorites to rewatch, or the kind of person who wants to be in on the ground floor of something promising, it’s a good addition to your streaming collection. I will probably keep subscribing, at least for a little while, to see how the service develops.
Our Testing Methodology
Overall, Peacock earns a 4 out of 5 stars based on how the service performed in the following categories:
|What It Means
|The service offers a large variety of TV shows and movies across many different genres to suit a wide range of tastes.
|The service offers a strong lineup of original content that can’t be streamed anywhere else.
|Price and value
|The monthly price of the service is fair based on the amount and quality of content you’re getting. The cost is consistent, or more affordable, than competitors’.
|The service offers a free trial that gives an accurate preview of what’s included in the monthly subscription.
|The service offers HD and/or 4K streaming options.
|How the platform’s features, such as simultaneous streams, offline viewing, parental controls, and customized recommendations, compare to competitors’.
|The service has multiple tiers to choose from, including an ad-free plan, to fit different budgets.
|The platform’s interface is easy to navigate and its settings can be changed without much hassle.
|The service is available to stream on multiple devices, including smart phones, tablets, smart TVs, Roku, and more.
|The streamer has multiple customer service channels that are easily accessible and responsive.
|Canceling a subscription with the service is easy to do without penalty.