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Subscribe to Comcast? Looking to keep yourself occupied with binge-worthy content during coronatimes? Lucky you, and your access to Peacock. The streaming service offers a whole load of shows you’ll know, or at least have heard of, like the complete seven series of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, and you don’t even have to pay a cent. Surely there’s a catch? Well, you can only watch with Comcast’s streaming box called Flex TV or its cable box, Xfinity X1. 

You may not be completely shocked when we tell you that Peacock is, in fact, owned by Comcast, which in turn owns NBC Universal. What you’re getting access to at the moment is only a beta version, you’re going to get a full-service offering by July 15. Even before it hits its prime, David Katzmaier, Joan E. Solsman, and Alison DeNisco Rayome at cnet, reckon you still get a decent back catalog to hunt through, although most of the TV is courtesy of NBC, and the movies are mainly Universal.

This new service from Peacock isn’t quite like Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, or Netflix – it’s got more in common with CBS All Access and there are definite similarities with Hulu, too. One of the big things Peacock and Hulu have in common is content; 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Friday Night Lights, and Law and Order: SUV stream across both. They both also come with adverts that you upgrade away from for extra monthly charges. Hulu doesn’t start as free, unlike Peacock, but it is one of the cheaper streaming services out there. 

There are plenty of things that set Hulu and Peacock apart, too and those differences are even more marked whilst Peacock is still in its sneak peek phase. Here’s how they measure up as it stands today.

Hulu

On top overall

Image credit: techcrunch.com

It’s not without justification that Hulu is considered one of the best streaming services for movies and TV. It pairs well with, and rubs up against, Netflix well; you get plenty of shows you’ll know from the likes of Fox, ABC, and NBC that come on stream pretty quickly once aired, plus there’s a reasonable array of critically acclaimed original series, and the catalog is expanding all the time. For the $6 a month that you pay for it, Hulu is great value, even when you factor in that the price includes adverts.

Peacock

Top for price

Image credit: deadline.com

If you’re a Comcast subscriber, you’re the only ones allowed access to Peacock as it stands, that’s until July when it hits nationwide rollout. On the sneak peek version that you can get your hands on now, there’s more than 15,000 hours worth of viewing, made up of TV series, specials from NBC, news, and Universal-made movies. The best thing about Peacock? It’s free. But only for now; when it goes nationwide you can expect that to change.

Hulu’s wins out on content

For anyone who’s not experienced Hulu, you’d be hard-pressed to name a TV show that you can’t stream on the service. The library is genuinely huge with thousands of shows totaling tens of thousands of hours of viewing from all the big networks: Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC, and then there’s the cable channel content you can get hold of from the likes of TBS, Bravo, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, and Food Network to give you just a few. As a streaming service, it really is the best, no arguing, as long as you’re looking for current hit network shows and to dive deep down into previous seasons. 

On Hulu, some of the major highlights include South Park, Killing Eve, Grey’s Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Black-ish, Family Guy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Masked Singer, The Voice, Seal Team, Bob’s Burgers, Lego Masters… Do you need anything else on that list?

Along with these modern classics from across the TV world, Hulu also produces its own original works that are exclusive to the platform. The one probably everyone’s heard of is The Handmaid’s Tale, and there’s also High Fidelity, Shrill, Letterkenny, Castle Rock, Future Man, and plenty more, too. 

Original series are going to spring up on Peacock soon, which should comprise revivals or reboots of Saved By the Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They’re not available to stream yet, mainly because of delays in production due to coronavirus and social distancing putting the kibosh on filming. “Like you, we’re all really unclear on exactly when certain things are going to go back to normal,” said the chairman of NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises and head of Peacock, Matt Strauss in a recent press call. There hasn’t actually been any firm commitment to scheduling for these originals, as yet. 

Whilst you’re waiting, you can still feast on plenty of familiar NBC TV. Some of the shows that you can catch on Peacock include comedies like Will & Grace and Saturday Night Live, drama series such as Law & Order: SUV and Chicago PD, the variety shows American Ninja Warrior, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Ellen’s Game of Games, and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Included in the roster of shows that aren’t running anymore are Law & Order, Friday Night Lights, Parks and Recreation, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Profit, 30 Rock, Top Chef Masters, and plenty more.

What you might expect but can’t find anywhere on Peacock are: The Office, which is on Netflix for the moment and comes on to Peacock in 2021; Friends which lands on HBO Max on May 27; and Seinfeld which is going on to Netflix next year, and is over on Hulu until then.

In the “hundreds of movies” that Peacock claims to host are the Jurassic Park franchise, Meet the Parents, Schindler’s List, E.T., and Shrek. What’s sorely lacking are some recent cinematic marvels – there’s nothing from the last decade and the most recent film to be had at the moment is Children of Men which was released in 2006.

As it stands, if you’re a TV buff you’re going to be satisfied with either Hulu or Peacock, but Hulu has the edge with the breadth of content and a deep bench of originals and library series.

Price and extras: still Hulu

Whatever screen you’ve got, wherever you are in the US, you should be able to watch Hulu. It’s compatible with smart TVs as well as kit like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, fourth-generation plus Apple TV, Chromecast and Android TV, Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Switch. Even phones and tablets can stream Hulu as long as they run iOS or Android, plus you can get it on any computer that has an internet browser.

For pricing, there’s the base option of $6 per month, and you can go ad-free for double that, then there’s a Live TV upgrade for $55 per month, and the no-ads version is $61. 

Other cool features you get on Hulu include being able to set up different profiles for different users, being able to adjust data usage on mobile devices, downloadable content for offline viewing if you’ve got the ad-free version, 4K streaming for some programs although it’s mainly Hulu originals, and on devices that are compatible you can watch two different streams at the same time using the base account.

The launch of Peacock in April has been restricted to customers of Comcast that already have an Xfinity X1 cable box or a Flex TV streaming box. If that’s you, you get the Premium Peacock package that has about 15,000 hours of viewing with ads for free, or you can upgrade to Ad-free Premium for $4.99 per month.

When full launch comes in July, Peacock will work across other hardware, including smart TVs, media streamers, tablets, and phones. If you’re not with Comcast already, there’s going to be a free, basic tier that has about half the content of the Premium package, the Premium deal will be $4.99 each month, and to get it ad-free it’ll be priced at $9.99 monthly.

The Peacock package you get at the moment doesn’t offer profiles and due to the lack of mobile app you can’t download content, and you can’t get anything in 4K quality. According to Peacock, 4K HDR streaming is on the way and there’s going to be the option of three streams at once.

A plus point for Peacock is that it has fewer ads on packages that come with them than you get on Hulu. In testing, a 22-minute Parks and Recreation episode broke for ads three times and each one was shorter on Peacock and there was no pre-show advert either. For movies, there were longer ads before the show on Peacock, but it still has a small advantage on the ad front overall.

Navigation: Both have plenty of options

For simplicity of use, Netflix and Disney Plus are still clear winners. If you’ve not used Hulu before, it can seem intimidating with lots of options and plenty of nested menus. After choosing a profile you’ll be presented with a home page just for you and there are categories across the top. These are TV, movies, Hulu picks, keep watching, news shows, and Hulu originals, plus a folder called My Stuff where you’ll find the shows you’ve marked. With a little scrolling, you’ll come to categories that are personalized based on Hulu algorithms, like feel-good TV, comedy cartoons, family TV, kids, award-winning TV dramas, and newly added TV and movies.

The way Peacock looks on X1 and Flex boxes is more akin to how cable TV navigation looks and feels. Upon opening the app, video will start to play straight away just as if you switched on your TV to watch normal cable. There are three main home screens to use; one for trending trailers and clips; one called channels that gives you a grid of programs such as SNL, Unsolved Mysteries, and NBC News; and a browse menu that looks a lot like normal Netflix. The default page would be “browse” in an ideal world, rather than “trending”, and Hulu’s fast-forward and rewind functions are also better.

Even with the plethora of menus that comes with Hulu, it still comes out top overall. It’d be nice to see Peacock use a more standard, intuitive experience to allow normal browsing of content. 

Until July at least, Hulu’s the winner

Unless you’re really watching the budget and don’t want to be spending $6 per month, Hulu is a definite winner here. Plus, since it’s only been given out to a limited number of people, most people can’t even get their hands of Peacock and it’s NBC-led content yet.

When July 15 rolls around and Peacock becomes available to the masses, things will look a little different. The freebie, basic level of use will still be free even if you don’t subscribe to Comcast, although there’ll be half as much available to watch. Originals are going to be added, The Office will land in 2021, and live sport will also get shown. This isn’t the end of the battle, it’s barely even the beginning.

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