Peacock Just Got Rid Of Its Free Tier, Which Is Likely A Good Thing For Paid Subscribers

Natasha Lyonne on Poker Face
(Image credit: Peacock)

Peacock gave mystery fans a big reason to celebrate in the last week, thanks to the debut of filmmaker Rian Johnson’s critically lauded first series Poker Face, which stars Natasha Lyonne as a happenstance detective bouncing from one twisty and star-studded crime to the next. The streaming service offered up a completely different kind of mystery on January 31 when it became clear the completely free subscription tier is no longer available for Peacock’s potential new customers. 

At this time, anyone attempting to secure a Peacock subscription will only be afforded two options: The standard Premium tier at $4.99 per month, and the Premium Plus tier at $9.99 per month. So for anyone attempting to check out what Saved by the Bell’s reboot was like before it was soooo unfairly canceled, it’ll cost you, preppie. 

To note, this is specifically the case for those who aren’t current customers. Those who are already signed up through the free tier don’t have to worry about it going away just yet, according to The Streamable.

Since far before its launch, NBCUniversal was quick to promote Peacock with heavy references to the fact that it, like few other premium platforms, offered cord-cutting audiences a free tier to sample some of its original comedies and dramas, as well as its extended licensed content library. Granted, that was as much to draw in advertisers as fans of The Office and 30 Rock, but nothing can perk someone’s ear up like the word “free,” especially as prices for such streaming services have gone up across the board, with 2022 seeing price hikes at Netflix and others, with HBO Max delivering its first increase in January 2023. So this wasn’t coming completely out of left field, all things considered, but it may not be all bad.

Why Peacock's Free Tier Elimination Is Probably Great For Paid Customers

After getting fully settled into the streaming service battlefield following its pandemic-set debut, Peacock slowly began steering its marketing efforts more heavily on its paid tiers, while also attempting to work out the kinks in crafting the kind of original shows that people actively want to pay for. More recent hits such as the reality competition The Traitors, the recently concluded bizarro-comedy Paul T. Goldman, The Resort, Bel-Air, and more indicate an upward tick in that sense, and ditching the free tier is a good sign that Peacock execs are now focused on (and perhaps desperate about) creating more marquee shows that keep viewers buzzing from one week to the next. 

Everyone's mileage will obviously vary when it comes to programming quality, of course, but hard data isn't so subjective. NBCUniversal's efforts in 2022 led to Peacock doubling its total subscriber base, with more than 5 million of the 20 million+ customers signing up in the year's final three months, which is pretty huge for the still-climbing platform. That time window included premieres for the TV follow-ups Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin and The Best Man: The Final Chapters, as well as the acclaimed true crime drama A Friend of the Family, as well as the monthly WWE pay-per-views and more. 

Assuming the powers that be are finding correlation between subscriber numbers and streaming traffic, we can only expect to see the studio go harder on creating more of whatever's most popular. It may never produce content at Netflix's levels (especially not internationally), but I'm sure everyone from producers to customers would love for there to be more weekly releases to keep driving viewership minutes higher. 

There's a debt-pocked elephant in the room, admittedly, in the form of Comcast's most recent earnings report. Despite Peacock already hitting goals it hoped to reach in 2025, at least as far as monthly active users, the company is expected to see financial losses reaching $3 billion in 2023, without any clear indicators of how close (or far) it will come to hitting another initial goal of reaching profitability by 2024.

So there's no denying Peacock getting rid of its free tier is tied to the concept of "not giving away free content while billions of dollars in debt are knocking at the door." But since the best way to get people's money is to give them more to spend it on, I think the platform will start cranking out a wider array of top-notch content in the future. So long as it doesn't cancel shows before they air, or reverse its series orders, as it went for Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson's new horror project.

While waiting to see how that all plays out, head to our 2023 TV premiere schedule to see what else is on the way soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.