The other day, I was binge rewatching Dawson’s Creek on Netflix and was struck by this line from Katie Holmes’ Joey Potter: “Dreams aren’t perfect, Dawson. They come true, not free.”
That sentiment can be applied to the current brouhaha simmering on social media about The Office moving from Netflix to Peacock, where classic episodes of the old NBC show now stream with ads for most users.
Streaming was one of the few things that didn’t suck last year. It is the only available entertainment option for many of us right now, as many movie theaters remain closed and we continue to stay and work from home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Streaming has been a balm and comfort. But just like dreams, streaming doesn’t come free — you have to pay for it, one way or another.
In 2020, the streaming arms race heated up with the additions of new players Peacock and HBO Max. Both came to the field wielding big back catalogs of content owned by their respective corporations, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
How The Office landed on Peacock
When HBO Max launched, it did so after poaching one of Netflix’s longtime binge staples, Friends (produced by Warner Bros. Television). Half a year before, Disney Plus did the same thing by siphoning away Marvel and Star Wars movies to their service. Now, Peacock is making The Office its marquee title after shelling out $100 million a year to its sister studio, Universal Television, for streaming rights.
Peacock is really betting on The Office drawing in users. When you go to PeacockTV.com, the website is splashed with a huge promo for the show touting the first two seasons are free to view. Click to upgrade and you can see pricing based on how much of The Office you get.
Based on social media posts, the comedy’s fans are flocking to Peacock — though not without complaint. As tech reporter Walt Mossberg pointed out, they were met with the unpleasant surprise of having to watch ads:
The move of “The Office” from @netflix to @peacockTV, which began today, has diminished the experience of viewing the show, IMO, because now there are ads interrupting the show, even on the Premium plan. I read that there would be an ad-free tier, but I can’t find it.January 1, 2021
Yes, ads suck. Nobody likes watching them. I still have a cable TV subscription and religiously fast-forward through commercials on my DVR recordings.
But, as I said before, streaming doesn’t come for free and there’s a cost in some form. In this case, the cost of the first two seasons is watching ads. The cost of the remaining seven seasons (and bonus material) is upgrading to Peacock Premium for $4.99 per month and watching ads. The cost of watching without ads is upgrading to Peacock Premium Plus for $9.99 per month.
So, yeah, you have to pay to watch without ads, but you also had to do that when the comedy was on Netflix. And recall that The Office in OG form aired on NBC for free … with ads.
The biggest knock on paying for Peacock Premium Plus is that it’s not totally ad-free. I tried it out and was able to watch more than a dozen episodes of The Office without interruption, but other users have noted that some movies and shows still include ads. Peacock does publish that caveat in its Premium Plus plan offering. That’s also the case with Hulu Ad-Free — due to rights issues that I’ll never understand, some titles must play commercials.
That is a major upside to Netflix and HBO Max. On other hand, those two services are more expensive than even the top-tier, mostly-ad-free plans on Hulu and Peacock.
Like most people, I can’t afford to subscribe to every streaming service and I have to pick and choose. So, I choose to suffer through the commercials on regular Hulu. I snagged a Peacock Premium annual subscription deal over the holidays so I could watch the Saved By the Bell reboot (which is great, by the way). But I won’t be keeping the Premium Plus upgrade that I got for this article. I’ll just deal with the ads the old-fashioned way — with a well-timed bathroom break.
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Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.