If you’re a Comcast subscriber looking forwhile you during the age of the , you’re in luck. is now available with a bunch of familiar shows, including all seven seasons of both 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, and it’s totally free. The catch? You can only watch on Comcast’s Flex TV streaming box or its Xfinity X1 cable box.
As you may have guessed, Peacock is owned by Comcast, which also owns NBC Universal, and the— the (ahem) full-fledged service won’t fly until July 15. It still has a solid catalog, however, mostly of TV shows from NBC and movies from Universal.
Peacock has less in common with Amazon Prime than it does a service like CBS All Access or, even more so, with (note that ViacomCBS is the parent company of CNET). Both Hulu and Peacock stream a lot of the same shows, including 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation as well as Friday Night Lights and Law and Order: SVU. Both Hulu and Peacock have ads and both offer upgrades to ad-free versions for an additional monthly fee. And although it’s not free like Peacock, Hulu is among the cheapest streaming options., and
Hulu and Peacock are also very different, especially during Peacock’s sneak peek. Here’s how they compare today.
One of the most popular TV and movie streaming services for good reason, Hulu is the perfect complement and counterpoint to Netflix, with a huge variety of familiar shows from networks like ABC, Fox and NBC that you can watch soon after they air, as well as a growing catalog of its own critically acclaimed original series. It’s also a tremendous value at $6 for the version with ads.
Available only to Comcast subscribers until its nationwide roll-out in July, the “sneak peek” version of Peacock still delivers more than 15,000 hours worth TV shows, news and specials from NBC and movies from Universal Studios. Its best feature, however, is the price: free.
Hulu wins the content contest
If you’re not familiar with Hulu, let’s just say it’s tough to name a network TV show that isn’t on the service. Its library is simply massive, with thousands of shows and tens of thousands of episodes from not just NBC, but Fox, ABC and CBS as well as cable channels Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, TBS, Bravo, Food Network and more. It’s the best streaming service, period, if you want to watch current seasons of hit network shows as well as binge deep into past seasons.
Top shows on Hulu include Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Killing Eve, Empire, NCIS, Black-ish, The Voice, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, The Masked Singer, Lego Masters, Seal Team… the list goes on.
Hulu also has original series you can’t watch anywhere else, starting with the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s also Letterkenny, High Fidelity, Future Man, Shrill and Castle Rock, among many others.
Peacock says it will have original series at some point, including reboots/revivals of Battlestar Galactica, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell. None are available now, however, and production delays caused by coronavirus social distancing don’t help. “Like you, we’re all really unclear on exactly when certain things are going to go back to normal,” Matt Strauss, the head of Peacock and chairman of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, said in a recent press call. Officially, Peacock hasn’t committed to timing for any of its originals yet.
In the meantime the service relies on lots of familiar NBC TV. Examples include current episodes of comedies Saturday Night Live and Will & Grace, dramas Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D, and variety shows Ellen’s Game of Games, American Ninja Warrior, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Its library of noncurrent shows includes Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law & Order, Friday Night Lights, House, The Profit, Top Chef Masters and many more.
Conspicuous in their absence, however, are a handful of NBC icons, including The Office (currently on Netflix; available on Peacock in 2021), Friends (which will be available on Hulu.) and Seinfeld. The latter in 2021 and until then you can watch it on, you guessed it,
Peacock also claims “hundreds of movies” such as the Jurassic Park franchise, E.T., Meet the Parents, Schindler’s List and Shrek. Unfortunately movie catalog is bereft of recent titles. It doesn’t have any films from the past decade; the newest is 2006’s Children of Men.
Bottom line? TV fans will find plenty to watch on both services, but Hulu wins for breadth and depth of choice, whether with current or library series.
Availability, plans and features: Hulu again
You can watch Hulu on pretty much any screen, anywhere in the US. It streams on smart TVs and devices including Roku, , (fourth generation or later), Android TV and Chromecast, Xbox One and Xbox 360, and 4, and the Nintendo Switch. You can also watch on any Apple or Android phone or tablet as well as on any computer with a browser.
Hulu has multiple pricing plans beyond the base $6 option: ad-free for $12 per month,and Live TV (no ads) for $61.
Major features on Hulu include profiles for different family members, adjustable data usage on mobile phones, mobile downloads for offline viewing (you’ll need the ad-free version for that) 4K streaming of some programs (mostly Hulu originals) on on compatible devices and the ability to watch two streams simultaneously on the base account.
Peacock’s April launch is restricted to Comcast customers with a Flex TV streaming box or Xfinity X1 cable box. Those customers get the Premium version of Peacock — with roughly 15,000 hours of content — free with ads, or can pay $4.99 a month for Ad-free Premium.
When it rolls out in July, Peacock will be available on other devices, including media streamers, smart TVs, phones and tablets. To non-Comcast customers Peacock will offer a basic, free tier with roughly half as much content as the Premium version (7,500 hours), the Premium version for $4.99 and the ad-free Premium plan for $9.99.
The current version of Peacock lacks profiles, mobile downloads (because there’s no mobile app yet) and 4K. In July Peacock says it will add 4K HDR and allow three simultaneous streams.
One point in Peacock’s favor is that its ad-supported version has fewer ads than Hulu. In ourof one 22-minute episode of Parks and Rec, Peacock’s three ad breaks were all shorter than Hulu’s and there was no ad before the episode. Peacock had longer ads before the movies, however, but in the end Peacock still has a slight ad advantage.
Menus and daily use: Lots of options on both
Neither service is as simple to use as Netflix or Disney Plus. If you’ve never used Hulu, its nested menus and numerous options can be intimidating. Once you’ve chosen a profile you get a personalized home page with several categories across the top: TV, Movies, Hulu Picks, Keep Watching, News Shows and Hulu Originals, as well as a My Stuff folder for shows you’ve marked. Scroll more and you’ll see more categories that differ depending on what the service thinks you’ll like, like Feel Good TV, Family TV, Comedy Cartoons, Award-Winning TV Dramas, Kids, and Newly Added TV and Newly Added Movies.
Peacock on Flex and X1 boxes has more of a NBC News and Unsolved Mysteries; and “browse,” which looks a lot like standard Netflix. In our hands-on we wished that the browse section was the default page, not trending, and we also preferred Hulu’s fast-forward and rewind.. When the app opens, it starts playing video automatically, like your cable service would when you switch on your TV. There are three separate main home screens, too: “trending” with featured clips and trailers; “channels” arranged in a program grid based on shows like SNL,
Overall we liked Hulu’s menus better despite the myriad options and wished Peacock would just settle on a more standard, browse-style experience.
Hulu for now, check back in July
Hulu dominates this contest right now unless you really don’t want to spend that $6 per month. And during Peacock’s limited launch, NBC’s service isn’t even an option for most streamers and cord-cutters.
When Peacock launches nationwide on July 15 it will be a different proposition altogether. Its basic tier will remain free for non-Comcast subscribers (albeit with about half as much content) and could be a viable alternative to Hulu, depending on what exactly you want to watch. And Peacock will continue to improve with originals, new shows, live sports and, yes, The Office in 2021. Stay tuned, this particular battle in the streaming wars is just heating up.
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