October 28, 2020
Peacock free or Premium? Ads or no ads? Here's how to pick the right streaming plan

Peacock free or Premium? Ads or no ads? Here’s how to pick the right streaming plan


Peacock premium account monthly costs

Choose which Peacock subscription is right for you.


Sarah Tew/CNET

NBC’s new streaming service Peacock launched in July and is packed with TV shows, movies, live sports, news and original series — much of which you can watch for free with ads, unlike competitors Netflix and Hulu

The free tier cuts you off from Peacock’s most coveted programming, like newer movies and its originals. But whether or not these titles matter to you at all is personal preference.

I tried out all three tiers of Peacock: Free, Premium (which includes some ads) and Premium Plus (which has no ads). Here’s how the three Peacock plans differ. 

Read more: Everything you need to know about Peacock

Sarah Tew/CNET

Peacock’s free subscription tier may be the streaming service’s greatest strength: As the so-called streaming wars rage on and massive newcomers HBO Max, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus vie for your monthly payment, none have offered a free option. And while older mainstay Hulu offers the option to watch with or without ads, you still have to pay $5.99 a month for the ad-supported plan. CBS All Access uses the same model, too. (Editor’s note: ViacomCBS, the parent company of CNET, owns CBS and Showtime, and Peacock competitors Pluto TV and CBS All Access.)

You can sign up for the free version of Peacock, well, for free: All you need to do is create an account with your email and a password. No credit card is required, unless you decide to try the seven-day free trial of either premium tier. 

The free tier includes access to about two-thirds of Peacock’s library: roughly 13,000 hours of ad-supported programming. You’ll find shows, movies, news, live sports and skit-style clips, with standouts including Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Yellowstone and The Bourne Identity. However, some of the standout titles at launch, including the original Jurassic Park films and The Matrix trilogy, have already been taken off the platform.

You’ll also be able to watch new episodes of current NBC shows one week after they air, including hits like This Is Us and The Blacklist. In terms of sports, the free tier includes some Premier League soccer matches, coverage of the US Open Championship and the Women’s Open Championships, an NFL Wild Card Playoff Game, and certain events from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

Because it’s free, you will see some ads: Peacock promises five minutes or less per hour. From what I can tell based on my testing, the way the ads appear seems to depend on your device and the show you’re watching. While watching Jurassic Park (which, as of Aug. 1, has expired on Peacock and moved over to Netflix) on an Apple TV and a MacBook Air, for example, I saw six ads sprinkled throughout the film, ranging from 20 to 60 seconds each. But when I started the movie on the iPhone app, I got a notice that I would watch 190 seconds of ads at the beginning, and none for the rest. I’d love to have that option on my Apple TV too to get the ads out of the way, but you don’t get to choose your ad format. 

The free tier will give you a couple of episodes of Peacock Originals to watch, but you’ll have to upgrade to premium to see full seasons. At launch, there are seven originals: Brave New World, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, The Capture, Intelligence, Cleopatra In Space, Curious George and Where’s Waldo? 

Signing up for the free version of Peacock is kind of a no-brainer. Sure, it won’t replace your Netflix or Hulu subscription. But for casual viewers, it’s a great option for finding older movies and shows you’ve missed or want to watch again, and for keeping up with current NBC shows — as long as you don’t mind some ads.

Read our Peacock review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Peacock Premium costs $4.99 a month or $50 a year. Upgrading gives you everything you would get in the free tier and more, for a total of about 20,000 hours of content. But you’ll still see the same number of ads that you would in the free version — five minutes per hour or less, according to the company. 

Premium gives you access to the full catalog of Peacock Originals, including the flagship series Brave New World and the Psych movie sequel. Four more originals are coming later this summer, including the third season of A.P. Bio, which Peacock picked up from NBC. You’ll also get more shows, including the popular series Yellowstone and every season of Law and Order: SVU. Premium movies include Shrek, Ted, Children of Men and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. 

Clearly, you won’t find a ton of brand-new movies here. Though Peacock executives said they didn’t have immediate plans to stream movies that were originally theater-bound during the coronavirus pandemic, like Disney Plus did with Hamilton, Trolls World Tour did arrive as a Premium movie offering in September. And there are a lot of good older options if you’ve exhausted the catalog on other streaming services during lockdown. 

For fans of current NBC shows, instead of waiting a full week, you’ll be able to watch new episodes the day after they air. Another interesting perk: Once Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon return to in-studio production, you’ll be able to watch them before they air, at 8 p.m. ET, instead of waiting until 11:30 p.m. ET.

The premium tier gets you more in terms of sports, too, including more than 175 Premier League matches for the 2020-2021 season and coverage of the Tour De France. Starting in August, you’ll find more than 100 hours of WWE content, including the series WWE Untold and Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions, and compilations like John Cena’s Best WrestleMania Matches.

If you’re a big fan of Premier League soccer, want to binge the Peacock Originals or are interested enough in the wider catalog, upgrading to the $4.99-a-month Peacock Premium with ads may be worth it for you. Dealing with commercials is annoying if you’re used to the ad-free Netflix experience, but there are still fewer than you’d see on regular live TV.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Peacock Premium Plus costs $9.99 a month, or $100 a year. Upgrading gives you everything you get in the Peacock Premium plan above — just without ads. Peacock’s mobile apps don’t offer downloads yet — but when that feature is added later this year, only Premium Plus subscribers will be able to download titles to watch offline. 

Due to to the terms of some of Peacock’s streaming rights, some programming on Peacock Premium Plus will still have some ads. This includes Peacock channels, events and a limited number of shows and movies, according to its website. (Ad-free plans from Hulu and CBS All Access have the same caveat.) 

During testing of a free-trial Premium Plus membership, I saw a lot of commercials that are known as promos: short ads that market the service you’re already using. On Peacock, these were typically 30-second spots for its originals or for the service itself. These are common elsewhere — Amazon Prime Video often runs promos for its originals before starting to stream the video you picked. On Peacock, I didn’t run into promos ahead of every title I watched, but I did for many.

Deciding whether or not to upgrade to the top tier depends on three things: how much you plan on binge-watching shows on Peacock, how much you hate commercials and whether you want to spend $10 a month on another streaming service. 

Personally, I think the free or Premium versions give you just about everything you would need. But I don’t mind ads here and there on a service I probably won’t be watching every day.


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Peacock Premium free trials and deals 

You can try out either premium tier for free for seven days. If you sign up for Peacock through its Android app or on Android TV, you’ll get an extended free trial of Peacock Premium for as long as 90 days, depending on when you sign up.

Depending on your cable provider, you may be able to find a deal on a Premium subscription: Comcast X1 and Flex subscribers get Peacock Premium free, or Peacock Premium Plus for $4.99 a month. Cox customers get the same deal. These customers can also upgrade to Peacock Premium Plus for $4.99 a month instead of $9.99 a month. 

Peacock has said it’s working on partnerships to offer this discount to a wider array of consumers. 

Changing between the three plans is pretty easy, even if you’re downgrading from one of the premium offerings to the free one. Under your account, you’ll see which plan you’re subscribed to. If you tried Premium Plus and want to change it, click Change plan. You’ll have the option to remove the ad-free experience and save $4.99 a month, or to go back to the free plan. Click Free. It’ll ask you if you’re sure, but that’s it. 

For more, check out five tips for getting the most out of your Peacock subscription


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