Today at 4pm Comcast will hold an investor presentation where it will fully reveal plans for Peacock. The streaming service powered by Comcast has been talked about for nearly two years and been misunderstood from the start. Part of the problem with the misunderstanding is that Comcast doesn’t seem to understand what should be done with it any more than the public at large. Initial reports said the service would be free to Comcast users with ads. Later reports said that it would be free to anybody whether they were a traditional pay TV subscriber or not. To be exact that did not mean that it would be free to Comcast customers. It was being reported that if a customer had cable service with any provider they would get access to the streaming app. Recently reporting pointed to a subscription service charging up to $10.00 per month. While speculation about services ahead of a launch often leads to half-truths and such, the total directional change in the perception of what Peacock is supposed to be leads us to believe the company has not had a stable plan from the start of talks until today.
Would Peacock be worth paying for?
We know that Peacock will be home to The Office and a Saved By The Bell reboot. OK. And? That is what will be answered today. And it better be a good answer. Peacock seems to think that the generation that has already stopped caring what the people that they went to high school with are up to now will want to know what the people who went to Bay Side High are up to now. Yes, the show was a Saturday morning hit that ran in syndication for years afterwards, but at its surface it was just a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off styled comedy about too cool for school rich kids and their nerd stereotype friend. Personally I think we got everything we needed to know about the characters from Saved By The Bell in Jimmy Fallon’s hilarious reunion sketch a few years back. The Office is a bit of a different story. At Netflix it rose to prominence in a way that it didn’t while it was in its initial on the air run. The series is insanely well written and popularized the documentary style filming of sitcoms, but has risen to fame with multiple generations who missed it the first time because it was thrown in with Netflix’s grab bag of programming. It has proven to be one of the company’s top titles. So the speculation by some is that moving the series to Peacock will prop it up and maybe even harm Netflix. We don’t think so. Yes, there are people who have a cult like following to the show. But if that is the main draw, I don’t think people are going to be shelling out money monthly just to see it. The real opportunity would be for Comcast to repackage the episodes into new deluxe 4k Blu-ray sets with tons of interviews, featurettes and commentary from the stars. Most likely though, as soon as The Office is no longer on Netflix, it will become one of the most pirated shows on the Internet.
What about the Current NBC App?
There is an NBC app that is set up to stream recent episodes of TV series and even live stream affiliates. Pay TV customers typically have a full range of programming options from NBC and across the Comcast owned channels including major cable channels like SyFy. The question is if Comcast is launching a full on streaming service, will the app still be available in its current form or will it take on a more CBS All Access role as a gateway to a paid service instead? There is no doubt that Comcast has a library of content that could definitely keep people who are looking for a place to re-watch old shows happy. But are traditional media companies missing the point about streaming?
It’s About New Stuff
What do Stranger Things, The Man In The High Castle, The Handmaids Tale, The Watchmen, and The Good Place all have in common? They are not 20-30 year old shows. When they aired nobody had ever seen them before. Whether something is available on a streaming service or free over the air, the public only has so much time to watch anything. And the public tends to lean towards new ideas. How many people are clamoring for Cheers right now? What about Growing Pains? Do you stay up at night just wishing you could see more episodes of Head Of The Class? I mean maybe. But the strength of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and yes good old network TV programming is that it gives you a chance to see something new. And if it is well written and well acted it provides a new experience, a new conversation at work and so on. That’s what TV really is. At its most basic it is a way to blow off steam at its best it brings people together with a shared experience. Disney struck gold with the Mandalorian even as Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker, somewhat underperformed at the box office. And anticipation for its Marvel linked shows is very high. A new series based on Star Gate might be a big idea that could work. The streaming properties that really work are things that you have not seen before. Nobody gets CBS All Access for Green Acres. Heck, nobody gets CBS All Access for most of its programming but that’s another story. But the point is, that the day and age of people plopping down as little as $5-$10.00 a month for access to long cancelled content has passed. The only service that can market itself almost on legacy alone is Disney +. And it is not a big deal because it has old Disney Channel shows and DuckTales. It’s because of its treasure trove of family friendly classics that have endured since 1940 and are the basis for the most popular parks in the world.
Peacock has one hope
Here is the formula that could make Peacock popular. If Peacock rethinks streaming with a consumer focus. Like we said, Comcast has a huge library of content. And there is an audience out there who would appreciate it. There are old fans of shows who would like to see them again and generations of people who did not see them the first time and may well appreciate them if given the chance. If Peacock built its service like the original Hulu, which was 100 percent ad-supported with no paid subscription and offered original content on top of everything else it just might have a chance. If it then threw in full access to the local affiliates for live programming for an extra fee, like say $5.99 it could add to the profits with people who can’t receive OTA signals. It could roll out originals over time once people are used to using the app. But it has to get people to the app in the first place by using its broad reach via all of its TV networks much the way Disney leveraged ESPN, ABC and others ahead of Disney+. Right now the average person has no earthly idea what Peacock is. And there are millions of people out there with multiple streaming services who don’t really want anymore. I know that companies want to cash in. But it’s too late to get into that game on the level the Netflix, Amazon and Hulu play it. Viacom figured it out before anybody else. You can make money off of this old content, but you have to put it out there in a way that is easy to find and make it free, which is why it bought Pluto TV and put so many old reality shows and Nickelodeon shows on 24-7 channels. If the interest in XUMO is in order to do something of that nature then they may just get it right.
On the other hand, if Comcast has the gall to charge a premium fee for a bunch of old SyFy, USA Network and NBC shows and rehash Saved By The Bell and expect to get a big boost from the public, it will only hurt future negotiations with the real streaming giants when it tries to find new licensing deals after the service shuts down due to lack of interest.