Comcast exec sees few people taking Peacock’s ad-free subscription

When Peacock debuts to a national audience later this week, the Comcast-owned service will offer three different subscriptions, including a free tier with a limited library of content and an ultra-premium, commercial-free tier with an expanded array of original and licensed TV shows and movies.

But unlike rivals Netflix and Amazon who have offered commercial-free streaming to users for years, Comcast believes most people who access Peacock content will see a handful of ads each hour, an executive revealed in an interview last week.

Comcast’s Matt Strauss told the trade publication Deadline he doesn’t expect most Peacock users to subscribe to the company’s commercial-free tier, which costs $10 a month.

Instead, the company is betting on users either paying $5 a month for a premium subscription that offers original programming, hundreds of movies and full seasons of TV shows from NBC and licensed third-parties or accessing Peacock’s free service that contains a limited, curated selection of shows and movies. (Comcast and Cox cable and Internet subscribers get access to the premium subscription for free.)

With either of those plans, users will see ads. Comcast says users can expect to see up to five minutes of commercials every hour. By comparison, ad-supported streaming competitors run an average of 8 minutes of commercials per hour; traditional linear television networks average around 20 minutes per hour.

Peacock soft-launched to customers of Comcast’s X1 and Flex platforms in mid-April. For the most part, commercials have been relatively limited, with one or two playing at regular ad breaks. For some shows, commercials play only once at the start of an episode.

Comcast hasn’t said if Peacock viewers will see more advertisements if they don’t pay for a premium subscription or have free access to one through a cable partner, nor has it said if the amount of commercials will increase for Comcast and Cox customers once the service rolls out nationally on Wednesday.

Ten advertisers have signed on to bring commercials to Peacock, Strauss told Deadline.

Comcast is betting big on Peacock with a commitment of $2 billion within the first two years of launch. But its efforts to reach millions of viewers in a short amount of time could be stymied by disputes with Roku and Amazon that will likely see the app skip those platforms when it launches later in the week. Combined, Roku and Amazon hold around 70 percent of the streaming TV hardware market.

If Comcast doesn’t reach a deal with both providers, it would force Roku and Amazon users to explore other avenues to access Peacock programming — using their phones, tablets or computers. Customers of both platforms have been forced to do the same with HBO Max, a robust streaming service that incorporates WarnerMedia‘s vast library of content — and one that has been panned since it launch for its confusing brand strategy and missing presence on the two biggest streaming hardware platforms on the market.

(Disclosure: At press time, the author of this story owned stock in AT&T. WarnerMedia is a subsidiary of AT&T that includes HBO.)