For a while, there were only three main streaming services TV lovers honestly cared about: Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video. But then the streaming wars began in earnest, and things got complicated. Disney+ and HBO Max got all the fanfare when they launched in November 2019 and May 2020, respectively. But Peacock, NBC’s plucky streaming platform that debuted in between the two in April 2020, was all but left in the dust without an engaging name or its own buzzy originals upon launch. Since its lackluster beginnings, however, Peacock has cultivated a library of original programming as well as fan-favorite shows and films, attracting more and more subscribers. Unfortunately, its prices are also starting to reflect the new demand. So, now that Peacock is finally spreading its wings, should you finally jump on board?
When Peacock launched, it was best known for taking beloved NBC sitcoms like The Office, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock away from Netflix. Sure, it started out with a small collection of original shows like the criminally underrated Saved by the Bell reboot and Amber Ruffin’s delightful talk show, but the majority of the people who flocked to the streamer weren’t looking for anything new; they begrudgingly forked over the cash and scrolled through the crowded and confusing interface just to access their favorite comfort re-watches.
A lot has changed since 2020. The platform’s exclusive streaming rights to shows like The Office is still a big draw for many, and its also made a name for itself as the go-to spot for live sports and the Real Housewives. But now, Peacock has standout original content that’s drawing in fans all on their own. A prime example is The Traitors, a juicy competition series that was already a hit abroad, and immediately became a pop culture fascination in the U.S. after its debut at the start of the year. It’s basically just a drawn-out game of mafia, wherein three “traitors” can secretly eliminate one contestant at a time until either all the traitors are voted out or none of the non-traitors remain.
The excellent cast of Survivor and Big Brother fan-favorites mixed with reality TV newbies made for captivating drama. By the end of January, Peacock’s joke tweet about its 20 million subscribers all watching The Traitors may have actually had a kernel of truth in it; the trendy series was not only immediately picked up for a second season, but its first season was also given a reunion special hosted by drama-monger extraordinaire Andy Cohen.
Then came Poker Face, an offbeat mystery-a-week detective series starring Natasha Lyonne’s salt-of-the-earth appeal. It wound up winning big, with reviewers and fans calling it Peacock’s first must-see TV series. The series boasts Knives Out director Rian Johnson as the mind behind these wild murder mysteries, along with a carousel of A-list guest stars like Judith Light, Jameela Jamil, and Charles Melton, who pop up like a surprise treat each week.
Of course, Peacock has already been a hub for Real Housewives fans since the whole franchise has been streaming there, but even in that arena, the streamer has revved things up recently. In 2021, the streamer launched The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, a sort of all-stars Housewives miniseries in which prominent cast members from various cities come together for a chaotic vacation. The same year, Peacock revived The Real Housewives of Miami, which had been canceled by Bravo after three seasons back in 2013. Now, both of these Peacock originals have grown to become staples within the Housewives fandom, with many even considering them to be among the best shows the franchise has to offer.
And then there are the lesser-known gems you’ll find in the library. Most recently, the strange docuseries Paul T. Goldman stoked tons of debate, and while the Cristin Milioti-starrer The Resort didn’t get the same attention as The White Lotus, it made for a great follow-up watch for everyone still hungry for a lush vacation mystery. Additionally, original comedies like Girls5Eva, Rutherford Falls, and Killing It are perfect for anyone looking for something new to laugh at with similar vibes to The Office and 30 Rock.
Peacock’s film selection has also been stepping up its game. The streamer didn’t have much in the way of exciting original movies for a few years after its launch, but Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco brought some major star power to the 2022 rom-com Meet Cute, and the pandemic slasher Sick was well met by genre fans. The streamer’s biggest gets of all have been the two stars of gay Twitter as of late: the Oscar-nominated Tár and queen of horror, M3GAN. If you’re among the masses eschewing movie theaters for the comfort of home viewing, Peacock’s girlboss acquisitions — in addition to its growing film stable — may be enough to win you over.
While Peacock’s content may be on the up and up, its interface is still struggling to keep up with competitors. Although the streamer rolled out a TV app redesign in the summer of 2022, the facelift didn’t seem to help. Users still struggle with its unintuitive layout and wonky interactions.
Another issue that might hold you back from subscribing to Peacock: its recent price changes. Since its launch, Peacock boasted a totally free ad-supported tier, in which users could watch most of its content without paying a thing. But sadly, Peacock eliminated this option at the end of January, meaning now you’ll have to pay either $4.99 per month for a subscription with ads, or $9.99 per month for an ad-free subscription.
But objectively, that price isn’t too steep, especially if you don’t mind ads. It’s notably cheaper than the subscriptions on Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and HBO Max. If you’re eager to see more Natasha Lyonne or you finally want to see why everyone’s obsessed with The Traitors, then it’s probably worth it to spend five bucks to check out Peacock, and then take a month to decide if the benefits outweigh the negatives before you renew your subscription. I was definitely lured in by its recent offerings, and Peacock hasn’t stabbed me in the back yet. Maybe 2023 is the year this bird finally takes flight.