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Peacock Spreads Its Feathers

Comcast’s NBCUniversal opened the new year by describing how it will hatch Peacock on April 15. Noting how “The Best Things in Life are Free,” NBCU’s presentation in New York — featuring Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey — highlighted how Peacock will be unique from the other fledgling streamers.

Comcast Xfinity and Flex subscribers won’t have to pay for Peacock Premium. Having struck the first of what could be many distribution deals, Cox Communications subscribers won’t pay either. Starting July 15, other viewers nationwide will be able to get a Peacock Free tier for nothing. Or they could get Peacock Premium for $4.99 with ads or $9.99 without.

In addition to streaming programming on demand, Peacock has linear channels. A show will be running when viewers open Peacock. If they scroll through the program guide and see something that appeared earlier, or will appear later, they can watch it right away.

Peacock will have other companies’ content, including ViacomCBS’s Yellowstone and Lionsgate programming. It announced a deal with comedian Kevin Hart. Peacock will also have three channels of Olympic programming, including live events, and NBC’s late-night lineup, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Advanced Ads Included

Peacock promises no more than five minutes of commercials per hour. Ads will be advanced. Some will be interactive, or work with voice remotes. Advertisers will present shows to viewers with a single ad, or offer bingers who watch three consecutive episodes of a show the fourth one ad-free.

Launch advertisers include Target, Eli Lilly, State Farm and Unilever. Those will also help promote Peacock online and in stores.

This fancy plumage isn’t cheap. Comcast will invest $2.5 billion in 2020-21 and expects to break even with 30 million to 35 million subscribers and $2.5 billion in revenue in 2024.

Analysts had mostly positive reactions. RBC Capital called Peacock “elegant and ecosystem-friendly” and said Comcast’s forecasts were “achievable, if not conservative.” A report from Sanford C. Bernstein said Comcast’s response to “shrinking video audience is being executed with characteristic scale and skill.”

Will Peacock fly? Time will tell.