For TV viewers, this is now the clash of the titans.
On Wednesday (July 15), the Peacock streaming service debuts, harnessing the power of NBC, Universal and beyond. It starts with eight new series (including “Brave New World,” shown here) and a pile of old ones, plus movies and more.
That makes it the fourth mega-streamer, alongside Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max … with plenty of near-megas – CBS All Access, Hulu, Apple TV+. Amazon, Acorn – nearby.
There are differences, including a big one: This new streamer (www.peacocktv.com) starts by being free, hoping people will upgrade to Peacock Premium, adding shows and eliminating commercials.
But the basic idea is the same: Create a mass so big that viewers can’t resist.
Netflix invented that approach; in 2017 alone, it said it was spending $6 billion on programs. The result has given it instant stature – best-show nominees at the Oscars (“Roma,” “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story”), the Emmys (“The Crown,” “Orange is the New Black”) and beyond. It’s also given Netflix upwards of 70 million subscribers in the U.S. and 180 million worldwide.
To fight that, the others have something Netflix lacks – a deep library, built from decades of mergers and acquisitions. Consider:
– Disney bought ABC, Pixar, Marvel and the “Star Wars” franchise … then bought the Fox movie studio (but not the Fox network) and some of its best cable channels. It sent FX shows to Hulu (which it also bought controlling interest in), but kept Nat Geographic for Disney+.
– Warner Brothers had bought Marvel’s biggest competitor, the DC Comics characters. It had its own HBO channel and bought Ted Turner’s properties, ranging from classic movies (“Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz”), to cartoons (Hanna-Barbera, early Loony Tunes) and the TNT and TBS networks. Put everything together and HBO Max ranges from “Game of Thrones” and “The Sopranos” to Bugs Bunny and Batman.
– And now Peacock, springing from other deals. In one package it has Universal movies, NBC comedies … and even “Downton Abbey,” which is from a British company Universal owns.
That gives Peacock plenty of old shows – some available now and some coming.
Classic comedies include “Cheers,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “Will & Grace” and “Parks and Recreation.” Dramas include “Murder She Wrote,” “Yellowstone” and all those “Law & Order” shows.
And movies? Well, Steven Spielberg used to be based at Universal. Peacock includes films he directed (“E.T.,” “Jaws”) or produced (“Back to the Future”) and more. It also has “Bridesmaids,” “Field of Dreams” and movie series – “Bourne Identity,” “Fast and Furious,” “Shrek,” and “Despicable Me.”
Still, streaming services need more than memories. Peacock will start with several new projects:
– An eight-part mini-series, adapting the futuristic novel, “Brave New World.”
– “Intelligence,” a comedy with David Schwimmer as the pompous American, joining a British government agency. It plans to have six-episode seasons.
– “The Capture,” a British conspiracy thriller starring Holliday Grainger, who was Lucrezia in the “Borgias” series. It has eight hours in the first season, with a second season planned.
– A movie re-uniting the “Psych” characters.
– Three animated shows. Two (“Curious George” and “Where’s Waldo?”) had already started on other networks; the newcomer is “Cleopatra in Space.”
– And two sports documentary series. “Lost Speedways” has Dale Earnhardt Jr. visiting former racing sites and talking about their past; “In Deep With Ryan Lochte” was meant to lead into the Olympics (now delayed a year), as Lochte, 35, tries to patch up his image and make a comeback during what are, for swimmers, the twilight years.