Chances are if you’re looking into signing up for Peacock (“Ugh, another streaming service!”), it’s because you’re trying to watch The Office — and NBC knows it.
The Office isn’t just a big deal to college students who are just getting into Jim and Pam’s “will they, won’t they” relationship; it’s a massive play for subscribers from NBCUniversal. And now, the streamer’s marketing attempts reflect that importance. Instead of simply saying “this plan will give you access to these types of titles,” Peacock’s pricing is broken down by just how much you personally love The Office.
Peacock is literally pricing their service based on how much of the Office you can watch what is going on pic.twitter.com/mTHX0GYXSh— cowabummer (@ItsRetroNemo) January 5, 2021
Just want the first two seasons? The free plan will be more than enough. Looking for every episode of The Office, along with never-before-seen clips? You’ll want Peacock Premium. Want everything in that tier but without all of those pesky ads (more on that in a second)? Peacock Premium Plus is what you’re looking for.
(Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is also an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.)
Beyond the confusion associated with each tier, trying to sell people a service based on how much they love The Office seems... well, not great. Especially when people start signing up for Peacock and are left frustrated. For example: Peacock Premium Plus isn’t exactly ad-free. Even though NBCUniversal notes that in a disclaimer on the signup page, the Peacock subreddit is full of annoyed customers who believed the entire experience would be ad-free, only to discover that “a small amount of programming will still contain ads.” As tech reporter and columnist Walt Mossberg tweeted, the move from Netflix to Peacock has “diminished the experience of viewing the show.”
The Office was previously available on Netflix, where it remained one of the most watched shows on any streaming service for several years. Unlike Peacock, Netflix is also extremely easy to use. People pay on average about $14 a month, and they get access to everything without ads on almost any device they want.
Peacock isn’t the only streamer whose “ad-free” platform contains ads. Hulu’s ad-free plan will run ads on “a select number of shows from our streaming library” due to streaming rights, according to the company’s website. Currently, there are two shows that contain ads: Grey’s Anatomy and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Comparatively, it seems like there are more ads that play on shows and films on Peacock’s “ad-free” tier. NBC likely has a similar contractual obligation to show ads on some shows, but there’s no warning icon or sign to indicate what programming will have an ad until one pops up.
We’re in a transitional moment for the industry. There’s never been more to stream, but it’s also more fragmented than ever (at least in the United States), as every conglomerate tries to find its place in a booming marketplace. Everything used to be on Netflix or Hulu. Now, everything is somewhere, but it’s left to customers to figure out where exactly their favorite show or movie is and if it’s really worth adding another $10 subscription to their monthly expenses. In other words: is The Office or Friends really worth buying a Peacock or HBO Max subscription? That’s something individual customers have to decide.
It’s important to note that the entirety of The Office is available for $70 on iTunes right now. If you’re only signing up for Peacock to watch The Office, there are better ways.