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Why Is Peacock So Bad?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 3, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | August 3, 2023 |


The streaming service Peacock launched three years ago, early on during the pandemic, promising to fill all the content needs we had after exhausting everything else on Netflix. It has been a dismal failure. In three years, and despite the many free trials offered by Comcast, which basically bundled it with their cable packages early on, the service has only amassed 24 million subscribers. That’s less than 1/10th of Netflix’s subscribers. The streamer, in fact, lost $1.3 billion in the first six months of 2023. This is despite the fact that it has the exclusive license to arguably the most popular series of the streaming era, The Office, and has episodes of all nine seasons of Suits, the most popular series right now on … Netflix.

Why has it failed so miserably? Theoretically, the NBC/Universal catalog should have given it a huge leg up. Those USA Network series are perfect streaming titles (see Suits). NBC owns a long-running late-night program that fetches more viewers than most primetime series in Saturday Night Live, and there are 47 years of content that comes with it. It’s the streaming home of the most popular reality franchise on TV, The Real Housewives, and the year’s most talked about reality series, Vanderpump Rules. Want to watch the best cooking competition, Top Chef? That’s on Peacock, too! As is the most popular show on cable for the last four years, Yellowstone. NBC also has the rights to the most-watched 3-hour block in primetime in all of broadcast network television: Sunday Night Football.

The streamer has the right library content, strong live programming, and the audience necessary to launch new programming. Why is Peacock so bad?

It’s a combination of bad marketing and poor original programming. Peacock should be the first thing that cord-cutters subscribe to because it’s essentially like having NBC and Bravo, which means SNL, the NFL, all that reality programming, and Andy Cohen. (MSNBC programming is also available, but it’s a real missed opportunity for the network not to livestream MSNBC). Do people not understand this? Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount+ combined will basically fulfill most of one’s broadcast network TV needs, and more. There’s also wrestling, the Olympics, and the World Cup on Peacock!

And for some reason, there are only 24 million subscribers. NBC’s Sunday Night Football averages 20 million. Why isn’t NBC proclaiming, “You can save $80 on your cable bill right now by cutting the cord and subscribing to Peacock!” NBC should be collaborating with Paramount, which live streams CBS and its NFL programming, to encourage people to make the switch. It’s time to convert linear viewers into paying subscribers before it’s too late.

Then there is the original programming. The streamer launched with a Brave New World series, which was not only bad but probably soured a number of people to the Peacock brand from the beginning. Next came Saved by the Bell, which was better than it had any right to be, but a hard show to market to nostalgic parents too old for the series, or their kids who had little familiarity (likewise the Punky Brewster reboot). NBC found some critical success with Rutherford Falls, but didn’t put in the effort to grow that audience. Likewise, the streamer’s best comedy, Girls5Eva, which is now on … Netflix.

NBC dramas have been one bomb after another: The Lost Symbol, one of the dullest series I have ever watched; One of Them Is Lying, a show I quit midway through season one despite having read both books; the Tiger King miniseries Joe vs. Carole that viewers had lost interest in before it had even premiered; Emmy Rossum’s follow-up to Shameless, Angelyne, which came and went without a peep; and a Queer as Folk reboot canceled after one season.

Things have been better on the comedy side, not that anyone would know because Craig Robinson’s Killing It has been seen by all of 17 people (it did at least get a second season, due out later this month); The Resort with William Jackson Harper and Cristin Milioti was a lot of fun (but an additional season is still in limbo a year after it originally aired); Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin, which my kids lost interest in despite having watched the Pitch Perfect movies multiple times; and Paul T. Goldman, which should have been the network’s viral Nathan for You-like hit. The streamer squandered that opportunity, too.

Somehow, the network also whiffed on Based on a True Story, a Kaley Cuoco series that should have been popular enough to renew the day after it premiered (it’s still pending). There’s also Pete Davidson’s Bupkis, which has also been renewed despite little buzz, and Bel Air, the ho-hum gritty reboot of The Fresh Prince that Peacock pinned much of its early hopes on. It has largely fizzled.

The only big hits that Peacock has, so far, are the fluke that was the reality series Traitors, The Best Man: The Final Chapters, and Poker Face, which should have been enough to give the streamer some momentum through Mrs. Davis (brilliant but likely little-seen) and Twisted Metal.

Alas, the streamer has no signature style, no signature show, and doesn’t know how to properly leverage the assets it does have. David Zazlav’s incompetence over on Max gets most of the attention, but what’s going on with Peacock is on another level.