The Peacock streaming service is trying to layeth the smackdown on Netflix, HBO Max and the rest of the best streaming services. In a huge deal announced this morning, Peacock is adding pro wrestling's biggest streaming service, the WWE Network, and will include live pay per view events such as April's WrestleMania 37.
Starting in March, Peacock will be the exclusive US distributor for the WWE Network. It means that wrestling fans like myself will have to switch their subscriptions over (details on how are coming soon) to see how the nefarious Roman Reigns manages to hold onto the WWE Championship, and if his cousin The Rock will come back to try and stop him.
So, while a lot of the Peacock hype came from its taking back of The Office from Netflix, the service is not settling for Dunder Mifflin for its headlines. And it's all a big reminder of how Peacock was supposed to stand out in the first place: with sports (or Sports Entertainment in this case).
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This all makes sense when you think about the fact that Peacock was planned to launch in tandem with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I'm not saying that pro wrestling is anything at that scale, but Peacock had a plan to stand out in an already crowded streaming pool. That plan — like all other 2020 goals — was thrown in the trash by the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 18: WWE Network content launches on Peacock.
March 21: Fastlane event is the first live event on Peacock.
April 10–11: WrestleMania 37 streams live on Peacock.
Will Pro Wrestling help Peacock surive?
But Peacock still has to grow its subscriber count, and it's fighting giants like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus. Luckily for NBCUniversal, none have live events.
So, if Peacock can manage to pull together a wide and diverse array of sports and live events, it could be what helps the service survive. Right now, there's a big conversation in the industry about "churn," the term for how these services fail to retain subscribers.
When it's time for folks to look at what services to keep and what to cut, Peacock could survive by being known as the streaming service with both original content and live sports.
Fubo TV is trying to carve the sports-streaming service niche itself, but its $65 per month price may be a little steep for some, even if it comes with a ton of sports channels. ESPN Plus is also out there, as well as CBS All Access — soon to be Paramount Plus — which too will offer live sports and news.
Peacock's live events also drive helps its ad sales
Peacock has three tiers, which dictate what you see and how many ads they can pack in. The free tier has only some content (with ads), the $4.99 per month Peacock Premium has everything (plus ads) and then there's the $9.99 per month mostly ad-free Peacock Premium.
Access to the WWE Network content, just like Peacock's Premier League soccer games, will be limited to the $4.99 Peacock Premium version. That way they're not only selling content to audiences, they're selling ads to show.
And I'd imagine a lot of WWE Network subscribers will switch to the $4.99 per month tier, to spend half of what the $9.99 per month Network costs. We don't know how WWE will fill the ad-breaks for the folks at the top tier price, but I'd imagine it won't be with content that people would be upset to miss out on.
It's unclear if the Tokyo games will take place this year or not, and so Peacock will need to find all the ways to draw in a wide variety of sports fans. The Olympics has a wide range of events that no other time of the year can offer, and for NBCUniversal, controlling it all under the same service would have been a huge deal.
This isn't the end
The more kinds of sports or live sport-adjacent content that Peacock can fit in, the more likely its long term success will be. We've got a long way until parent company NBCUniversal has the Super Bowl (on NBC in 2022), so we expect to see more additions of this kind.
So, streamers, know that while you may be able to evade Peacock for now, it may come for you too. Pro wrestling fans who wrote the service off as just the home of The Office are now wondering if their streaming devices support it (Amazon Fire TV devices still don't, by the way).
I thought I could forget about Peacock. Peacock, it turned out, had other plans.