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NBC streamer with original series to start at $5 a month

The logo for NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service, Peacock, is displayed on a computer screen on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in New York. NBCUniversal is expected to unveil the price and other details about Peacock on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

BY TALI ARBEL

NBCUniversal will make a free version of its upcoming Peacock streaming service available, but it will charge some viewers at least $5 a month for original videos, returning broadcast series and a sneak peak at late-night shows.

Networks typically offer free access to TV episodes the day after their broadcasts through their own apps and Hulu. Peacock will offer next-day access to first-year shows for free. For returning shows, it will be part of a premium offering that costs $5 with ads and $10 without. That’s in line with what many rivals cost.

Premium subscribers will also get late-night shows from Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers a few hours before they’re on TV.

The ad-supported version will be free for 24 million households that get TV subscriptions through Cox or either TV or internet through Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company. They can pay $5 a month to remove ads.

The service launches April 15 for Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and July 15 for everyone else.

There is an influx of new streaming services from the country’s biggest tech and entertainment companies as people increasingly turn away from watching live network TV and cut their cable subscriptions. These new offerings model themselves on Netflix: a catalog of movies and TV shows available whenever and wherever people want to watch, for a monthly fee. They’ll have to fight for consumers’ attention and money.

Hulu, in which Comcast is a silent minority owner, and Quibi, an upcoming short-video streaming service that’s backed by Hollywood studios, also have ad and ad-free options.

By contrast, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and the upcoming HBO Max from AT&T’s Warner Media don’t have ads at all, though AT&T has talked about having some in the future.

All the costs for streaming services add up, and surveys suggest people don’t want to subscribe to all of them, especially with many existing streaming options already, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Prices range from $5 a month (Apple TV Plus, Quibi with ads) to $15 (HBO Max). Netflix’s most popular plan costs $13.

Peacock will have 15,000 hours of programming, including original content and stuff from the NBC library like “The Office,” which leaves Netflix for Peacock in 2021. Not all of Peacock’s content will be exclusive. Original shows will include a series based on a true-crime podcast that stars Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. Peacock also plans to remake sci-fi favorite “Battlestar Galactica.” And Michael Schur, the creator of “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Place,” is producing a comedy called “Rutherford Falls.”

Media analyst Rich Greenfield said he considers Peacock a “digital version of a broadcast network,” with a better consumer experience than traditional TV.

CBS All Access, launched in 2014, functions in some ways as a digital version of CBS and remains a relatively small streamer.

Greenfield said crucial decisions for NBCUniversal will be where it puts its TV shows and movies. For example, should its best series start on TV and go to Peacock, or launch right on Peacock to lure subscribers?

Comcast has said that it will invest $2 billion in Peacock in its first two years of operation, and it predicts losing money for years. It says it’ll break even by the fifth year. It hopes to have 30 to 35 million accounts by 2024.

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