Earlier this week, reports surfaced suggesting NBC was going to unveil a free-for-everyone version of Peacock, its upcoming direct-to-consumer platform. To offset the lost revenue as a result of no subscription fees, NBC would then use the free-for-everyone level to sell commercials to advertisers and sponsors, not unlike regular network programming. While most streaming platforms offer a free trial, few actually remain free — a reason why NBC could be upsetting the status quo significantly.
The streaming landscape changes by the day and a world once dominated by Netflix and Hulu will soon be saturated by offerings by virtually every major network. In fact, after Disney+ launches later this month and Peacock and HBO Max hit the ground next spring, the entire slate of major streaming offerings will likely cost consumers well over $150 per month, should they choose to subscribe to them all.
As the content teams with each service battle over mega-overall deals with some of Hollywood's top creative talent, one might expect the marketing teams to be following close behind fighting a battle of their own. With streaming services everywhere consumers turn, how does one service stand out from another? Sure, content is a major building block of the thought process — like The Office on Peacock, Netflix's Stranger Things, or the stable of Marvel Studios shows on Disney+ — but pricing carries a hefty weight in and of itself.
That's what makes the reported Peacock news so exciting. While most services are charging between $5 and $15 per month, it's a sure guarantee they'd welcome a massive onslaught of free subscribers with the introduction of a no-cost package. Commercials might be a pain to some — but that's why the ad-free premium option will always exist as a backup.
Take Netflix as an example. The Reed Hastings-led company continues hemorrhaging cash as it invests billions into original content while subscriber numbers don't necessarily warrant the increased spending. Despite a healthier Q3, Netflix had one of its worst quarters on record earlier this year, losing subscribers for the first time. With a few more juggernauts on the way in the coming months, one might expect Netflix to return to similarly poor numbers as customers jump to fresher programming.
From the outside looking in, that might be a good enough reason for Netflix to flirt with the idea of a free ad-supported tier. Though it's paid subscriber numbers would dwindle significantly, one Wall Street analyst suggested this summer the streaming giant could rake in at least $1 billion in ad revenue annually. If you question the number, it should be pointed out Hulu reported $1.4b in ad revenue last year alone from its $5.99 per month ad-supported plan.
The streaming wars are upon us and all it will take is one little push to shake things up — a push that might come in the form of Peacock's free streaming service.
This time next year, what streaming platforms do you plan on using? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or by tweeting me at @AdamBarnhardt!
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