All eyes are on Walt Disney's (DIS -2.57%) Disney+ as it prepares for its big debut in November, but Disney+ is not the only new subscription streaming service set to drop in the near future. Far from it: a host of other streaming contenders, including Apple TV+ and AT&T's HBO Max, are on the way, too. Among the most intriguing of the coming services is the offering from Comcast (CMCSA -0.98%).
Comcast's NBCUniversal isn't quite in the same ballpark as post-merger Disney in terms of media content, but the two companies share a mode of reasoning when it comes to entering the streaming fray. Like Disney+, NBCUniversal's new streaming plan presumably exists, because NBCUniversal believes it's more profitable to own its own streaming service than to license its content to other companies like Netflix (NFLX -3.54%). We know the reasoning, and we know the name: Peacock. We also know that the service has a targeted launch date some time in April 2020. But we're still missing key details.
How much will Peacock cost?
NBCUniversal was willing to share the name of its new service in an announcement last month, but it kept mum on the price, which the company says will be announced at some point closer to the service's launch date next April.
That leaves open one of the most important questions about the whole idea. Will NBCUniversal opt for a Netflix-like price of somewhere in the $15 range? That's the range that HBO occupies, too, but it's looking a bit less appetizing as Disney+ and Apple TV+ hitting the market with aggressive pricing.
Speaking of Disney+ undercutting the market, the Disney+ and Hulu price point of around $6 or $7 is looking pretty successful right about now -- though we'll surely know a whole lot more about that once Disney+ launches in November. NBC itself had a service in this price range (the ill-fated Seeso). As more services arrive and fracture the market, likely increasing the number of multi-subscription households and the rate of subscriber churn, a lower price appropriate for subscription stacking might make sense.
NBCUniversal could always go in the other direction: AT&T's HBO Max was once reportedly planned to be more expensive than Netflix and HBO, though later reports have indicated that it might go for the more sensible price of $15 per month.
How much do users care about Peacock's content?
Disney+ and Peacock exist for the same reason: to bring home popular media properties and maximize profits. But while Disney prepared for its big streaming entry by gobbling up fellow media company Twenty-First Century Fox, NBCUniversal is relying on what it already has.
Which, to be clear, is a whole lot of stuff. NBC owns a ton of shows and movies. That includes what is, by most estimates, the single most popular show on Netflix: The Office.
The big question for Peacock is whether users would be willing to flee Netflix and head to Peacock to watch its content. These popular shows get a lot of repeat viewers, but how much of this is just people passing the time with something familiar? Is The Office a reason to switch streaming services or just a good show to put on in the background while you work around the house? These aren't easy things to figure out, but we'll know the truth soon enough.
What devices will Peacock support?
To reach a lot of streamers, Peacock will need to support most -- if not all -- of the most popular streaming platforms. Chief among those are Roku and Amazon's Fire TV.
But Disney+ excluded Fire TV from its opening lineup of supported devices, deliberately and presumably because Amazon owns a subscription streaming service of its own. Will Peacock do the same, or is that a power move that only a service as hotly anticipated as Disney+ can pull off? Cutting out Fire TV will cost Peacock exposure, but including it will also benefit a major competitor.
Is NBCUniversal ready for serious streaming?
We've grown used to seeing new streaming services pop up, but it's worth remembering that building out the necessary infrastructure isn't exactly easy to do. If Peacock succeeds and draws big crowds, how will its streaming quality fare?
This is a fair question for a tech investor to ask of any streaming service -- including Disney+. Like Disney, Comcast was involved in Hulu; unlike Disney, Comcast hasn't bought out BAMTech to shore up its streaming readiness. Streaming isn't quite the foreign territory that it was when Netflix pioneered the industry, but Comcast and NBCUniversal will need to invest wisely in strong infrastructure, especially if they plan to release original shows on a weekly schedule (as HBO does and Disney+ will do, and as Netflix notably does not).