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Peacock Ponders Accelerated Launch Amid Pandemic Viewing Spike

(Image credit: Peacock)

Despite massive disruptions to consumer habits and the global economy, Comcast and its NBCUniversal division are sticking with their plan to roll out new streaming service Peacock to Comcast Cable Xfinity X1 and Flex customers starting Wednesday, and to everyone else on July 15.

In fact, with Comcast Xfinity pay TV customers consuming, on average, two hours of additional video per day, Peacock might actually push up that July national launch, which will see the Peacock expand from being an app confined to the Xfinity ecosystem into a full-fledged OTT service, available on pretty much any device on the open internet. 

“That’s something we’re certainly evaluating,” said Peacock Chairman Matt Strauss, speaking to reporters during a Tuesday conference call. Also read: Comcast’s Peacock Streaming Service Created From Traditional TV’s Winning Recipe

Strauss conceded that Peacock has had to conduct a significant “pivot” amid the rapid onset of the COVID-19 era, with 100% of its team now working from home, and what was to have been the platform’s major source of launch fuel, the Tokyo Summer Olympics, now pushed back to 2021. 

Strauss, however, spoke of “silver linings” associated with what will be pent-up demand for the Olympics in 2021. (Reader tip: check out TV[R]ev analyst Alan Wolk’s March post, “Peacock Finds Sliver Linings in Postponed Olympics Playbook.”)

Speaking virtually alongside Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, Strauss described market conditions that are perhaps better than those that were in place when he last addressed reporters back in January, prior to COVID-19 impacting the U.S. market.

"With the majority of the country at home, demand for news and entertainment is truly at an all-time high,” Strauss said. 

The premium version of Peacock that launches (for free) on X1 and Flex Wednesday—and which will be available nationally on July 15 for $4.99 a month—includes 15,000 hours of movies and TV shows, along with 20 “linear” live channels that include outlets like NBC News Now, Sky News and SNL Shorts. Strauss said there will be 75 of these channels by the end of the year. 

The premium version will also include a number of original series that won’t be available on the free version, which has about half the programming library (7,500 titles) and is entirely ad-supported. (You can read Next TV’s entire rundown of the Peacock model here.)

Due to pandemic production stoppages, most of those originals won’t be completed on time, or even in 2020. 

But with Xfinity viewers watching 25% more comedy these days, Strauss believes Peacock’s deep library, which includes popular recent sitcoms like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Two and a Half Men, as well as late night shows Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers, gives it an edge at a time when consumers are craving escapist entertainment. 

Parents, Strauss said, now have the means to share their favorites with their kids. 

“Viewers are seeking programming that’s comfortable that’s familiar and nostalgic, and families spending a lot more quality time together,” Strauss said. “This provides us unique opportunity to share common experiences, and revisit some of their favorites.

Also read: Peacock Adds Advertisers as Launch Date Nears

Meanwhile, Strauss said Peacock is not seeing “any kind of degradation to the targets it laid out with advertisers.” 

Peacock has identified 10 launch sponsors: Capital One, L’Oreal USA, Molson Coors Beverage Co., Subaru of America, Verizon, Eli Lilly, Apartments.com, State Farm, Target and Unilever.

Paying for packages that are reported to be worth as much as $10 million to NBCU, these partners, Strauss said, have agreed to “play in a sandbox and to work with us and our product teams as we look at different innovations.”

The relationships, he said, are “long-term.

“With this huge increase in streaming, we’re actually seeing advertisers gravitate towards wanting to work with us,” he added.