Thursday, January 7, 2021

Streaming services and classic TV in 2020--Report cards! Part 3

The last several days I have been handing out report cards for the major streaming video on demand (SVOD) services with regards to how they did in the realm of classic television in 2020.  We have covered the big guns, but some of the highest grades are still to come!

(Note: I have updated my grade for Netflix in Part 1 after discovering an oversight)

Peacock: First, the good news: There is a lot of old TV here. Leave it to Beaver and The Munsters and Alfred Hitchcock Presents differentiate Peacock from HBO Max and Disney Plus, which show little interest in offering black and white TV. Other long-running shows (and BOTNS subjects) like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote are also available for free.  In fact, the new NBC Universal megastreamer offers all kinds of stuff--news, sports, live channels, Spanish programs--and it tried something different with its multi-tiered system.  As a Roku user and not a Comcast subscriber, it was easy for me at first: I didn't have it.  

Now that it's on Roku, I do check it out on the regular, but there are some disappointments. The tiers are confusing. There are free shows like those mentioned above, there are premium shows only accessible with a paid subscription (Alfred Hitchock Hour and Everybody Loves Raymond) and most confusing of all, shows that are free for the first season or two but then premium for the rest of the series (The Office).  I respect the decision to offer a free tier, but separating things by content instead of giving ad-supported and ad-free versions causes frustration. 

And did I mention that there are two paid subscription types? There is a premium with ads and a premium without ads. So if you just want to see, say, Cheers, and not just the 5 free episodes, you can buy a premium package and still get commercials. You have to get Premium Plus to lose the ads.

But the content is the main thing here, and while it has an impressive assortment of vintage shows for now, it has a lot more it should have. Where is all the stuff on the NBC app? I'm talking about The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica, and many others. These shows aren't on the major streamers, so it's frustrating that they are only on plain old NBC and not on the hyped Peacock.  It's tempting to say NBC itself has more for vintage TV fans than Peacock, but the latter has much less commercials and a watchlist function, so of course it's the superior option. So what is it waiting for? Bring over all those old shows, to say nothing of the hundreds of hours of other orphaned programs in the vaults.

Most pleasant surprise: The commercial load is way lower than I expected.  Just watch something like Murder, She Wrote on here and compare it to the amount of ads on IMDB-TV.
Biggest disappointment:  It's the lack of so many programs that are already there on the NBC app.  Also, it's been years since it left Netflix, but Quincy is nowhere to be found. Not only is the M.E. M.I.A., but how about Kojak? Marcus Welby? The free site has a lot of content, but if they want us to pay for this, they should be more generous about adding programs. No, Big Freedia's Bounce doesn't count.

Oh, also, it's a real shame that after the first 5 seasons, the old SNL episodes are the same butchered versions that appeared on SeeSo.

Grade: B+  I'm optimistic that it will keep adding to the library and increasing its value in 2021. For now it's a decent service, especially at the free level, but its structure frustrates free users more than it rewards paid users. it's hard to complain too much about a new free option with so much there, but Universal can and should do much better this year.  Please don't be like Disney Plus and dump all your catalog content at launch, then ignore it afterwards.

By the way, the fact that Peacock still isn't on Fire TV may be the most underreported SVOD story of the year. For months we heard all kinds of speculation about Roku and HBO Max, yet long after the former made a deal to get Peacock, the new service still isn't directly accessible for those with Fire TV devices. Are they still trying?

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