NBCUniversal will no longer be offering a free membership tier for new customers subscribing to its Peacock streaming service. As of January 30th, new Peacock customers will now need to subscribe to the Premium plan ($4.99 / month) with ads or Premium Plus ($9.99 / month) without ads to access content on the platform, as first reported by The Streamable.
A great deal of marketing for Peacock’s streaming debut in 2020 focused on the free membership tier, even introducing the service alongside the tagline “free as a bird.” The free membership was supported by ads and gave users access to a limited selection of Peacock content. Existing users will continue to have access to the free tier of Peacock, as will Premium Peacock subscribers who want to step down from their current paid membership.
Peacock is still operating at a loss despite recently surpassing 20 million paid subscribers
The Streamable reports an NBCUniversal source (delivering a message similar to an NBCUniversal spokesperson reached by Variety) said that the membership change would allow Peacock to better focus on its Premium membership offerings, which the company feels is the best way for customers to experience the service.
Peacock has managed to increase its total paid subscribers to 20 million, up from 9 million subscribers the previous year, likely due to broadcasting Premier League soccer matches alongside the success of original shows like Dr. Death, Bel-Air, and the first four seasons of Yellowstone — all of which require a Premium membership to watch in full. The sudden popularity of Peacock’s latest original series Poker Face is also likely to drive additional paid subscribers to the platform.
The streaming service has, however, yet to turn a profit. Comcast — which owns NBCUniversal — highlighted that Peacock is expected to hit peak losses of around $3 billion this year in its recent company earnings report. It's a weird time right now for streaming platforms in general, though, with price hikes across the board, the merger of Paramount Plus and Showtime, Disney’s plan to dissolve its media entertainment division, and much more. Compared to the utter chaos occurring over at HBO Max right now, maybe Peacock can sleep easy for a while.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is also an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.