Home to greats like The Office, Parks & Rec, Real Housewives, and Law & Order, Peacock has some great content at a price we loved. But our hands-on testing revealed that its channel lineup was disappointing and couldn’t fully replace a more expensive live TV streaming service like Fubo or YouTube TV.
Spectrum TV is good if you’re bundling and on a budget, and we love the $500 contract buyouts. Better yet, Spectrum doesn’t force you into a contract, so you can give the cable TV service a try with relatively little risk. We don’t love the low channel count, and it’s a bummer that you can get 4K programming only if you also have home internet (and upgrade your DVR to an Apple TV box).
Peacock TV is different from other streaming services because it focuses on only NBC content. NBC has a little something for everyone though, so we were able to rate all five content categories. But instead of basing our ratings on the channels Peacock offers, we focused on the shows themselves.
If you’ve had cable TV or another live TV streaming service like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or fubo, you might see Peacock’s channel lineup and snort out loud. And you’d be totally within your rights. Most of Peacock’s “live” TV channels just play reruns of specific shows all day and night. You can’t control which episode you watch or when you start one, nor are you getting brand new content. It’s kind of the worst of both the live TV and on-demand worlds.
Our advice? Get Peacock TV for the sports, day-old NBC shows, and movies—not for the channels.
If you spring for the $10 per month subscription, you’ll get your local NBC channel. Otherwise, you won’t. If you live in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, South Florida, Boston, or Los Angeles, you’re in luck. You’ll get a local NBC news channel. If you live elsewhere, you won’t get any content local to you.
Peacock Premium and Peacock Premium Plus have some great sports content too. You’ll get a bit of everything, from soccer to golf to cycling to NASCAR to Sunday Night Football—all live or on-demand, depending on when you log in to watch. You also get the Olympics, of course, but these won’t be live. So if you like to stay up til three in the morning to watch your favorite curling team sweep their hearts out, consider this your permission to sleep in and catch all the bonspiels (that’s curling-speak for games) during normal waking hours. Oh, and if classic WWF matches are your jam (wait, is that just us?), Peacock has a channel that plays them 24/7/365.
Family and education: 3.5/5
Peacock has some great family-friendly movies and finding them is super easy. Create a kids profile, and it’ll be packed with Dreamworks movies like Turbo, Shrek, and Shark Tale alongside shows like Blippi, Strawberry Shortcake, and Trolls: The Beat Goes On. Plus, you can dress to the nines in your living room and join the Gentleminions movement without besmirching your polite theater-goer reputation.
News and politics: 2.5/5
Peacock has some strong news content in addition to its six local news channels. You’ll get a 24/7 Dateline channel, Today All Day, Sky News, and LX News. If you’re looking to get a sample of headlines and stories, it’s great. But all news programs are created by NBC, so you may not get the variety of perspectives you’re looking for. We like to see Peacock as a supplemental way to get news coverage, we prefer to get our news elsewhere.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 5/5
NBC has some award-winning shows, both new and old. From The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks & Rec to Blacklist, all the Saturday Night Live, and Real Housewives, there’s some great content to watch on Peacock. If you work your way through all the episodes of these shows before you’re done binge-watching (though we’d be surprised if you did), you can pick from classics like Dennis the Menace, reruns of Jimmy Fallon, and more.
Spectrum TV is a good choice for basic TV viewing on a budget, especially if you bundle with home internet. You get more than 125 channels with TV SELECT and more than 140 channels on MI PLAN LATINO, but those are your only package options. Your exact channel lineup depends on where you live (and some areas even have unique package options), so enter your address and check the channel guide as you decide.
Spectrum does a great job of providing local channels throughout the hundreds of markets it covers. You get the big four—NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX—plus The CW and Spanish-language channels. You’ll miss out on a few smaller local networks in some areas, such as Antenna TV and Estrella TV, but we have no major complaints.
Spectrum TV is only passable when it comes to sports. You’ll get national games on the local networks and coverage from networks like TNT and FS1, but you’ll have to pay extra for goodies like MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice, and the ESPN College Extra. You may be eligible for various regional sports networks, but they almost always cost extra. The sports pack is a breezy $6 per month, which isn’t bad, but we’d still prefer the channels be in the standard package.
Family and education: 3/5
Spectrum TV also earns a passing grade for kids shows, but it’s nothing to write home. You won’t get Disney Jr., Nat Geo Wild, Cartoon Network, or Nick Jr., unfortunately. Smithsonian’s out, too, and Science (you can get some of these with the Entertainment View add-on, but it costs $12 extra each month). You do get PBS, though, plus the regular Disney channel, Family Entertainment TV (FETV), and Discovery. It’s not great, but it’s not awful either.
News and politics: 4.5/5
Spectrum doesn’t offer the hotly debated Newsmax channel at its base price, but it has almost everything else news junkies crave. You get national networks CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, plus all the news that comes with local channels. If your primary reason to pay for live TV is to stay up to date, we think you’ll be pretty happy with what Spectrum has to offer.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3.5/5
Spectrum TV’s lineup for movies, home improvement shows, reality TV, and true crime is just OK. You’ll have to pay extra for HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and CINEMAX, or for an Entertainment View add-on that includes NFL Network, OWN, and the Cooking Channel. That said, you get channels like Investigation Discovery (ID), TLC, Hallmark, and INSP with the regular package price. You can’t get Ion or Ion Mystery either way, which is a bummer, but there are still hundreds of channels to choose from.
Peacock is a great deal, and it’s one of the cheapest TV streaming apps. Peacock gives you access to arguably some of the greatest shows on TV, solid news coverage, and a great sports lineup—especially international sports.
It’s a ton of value, but we recommend considering it an addition to a more complete live streaming option like Sling or Hulu + Live TV—especially since Peacock doesn’t give you access to NBC/Universal’s live stations, like CNBC, MSNBC, or, well, NBC. That means you can’t watch live episodes of The Voice with your friends. Instead, you can get them on Peacock the next day—after your co-workers passive-aggressively feed you spoilers. Womp-womp.
Peacock TV has three versions. The free version is kind of like a teaser for the paid versions. You get to watch a few new shows and a bunch of channels packed with syndicated reruns, all while drooling over all the shows you’d get if you coughed up the cash for the paid version. The next step up, Peacock Premium, is a great buy at $5 per month. You get all the content Peacock has to offer, and the commercials were surprisingly low-key.
Finally, the premium tier is Peacock Premium Plus. It’s twice the price and, in our opinion, rarely worth the cost. You get the same content with fewer commercials and the ability to download shows to watch offline (but no ability to DVR live content). It’s pretty meh.
The two package options from Spectrum TV are pretty decent when it comes to channel per dollar, and you get all but one of America’s top 100 channels. (1) You’ll need add-ons for international programming, premium sports, and premium education and entertainment, but the cost is about average compared to other providers we review.
You’ll have to pay even more for your cable boxes and DVRs. Plus, there’s virtually no way out of a local broadcast fee, which tops out at more than $20 per month. Worst of all, that low base price will increase in the range of $20–$30 per month after your first 24 months. Competing services have much bigger second-year price jumps (we’re looking at you, DIRECTV and Astound TV), but we still wish Spectrum would end the practice.
Peacock makes watching and finding content a wonderful experience. You can’t DVR anything, but with so much on-demand content, we didn’t feel much need to anyway.
Ability to watch: Great
Peacock delivers a solid watching experience in both its app and browser versions. Something Peacock TV does really well is let you jump between devices in the middle of watching a show. It easily picked up where we left off when we switched from a computer to the phone app to TV and back again, whether we were watching live or on-demand content. For some streaming services, (we’re looking at you, Sling TV) switching devices mid-stream can get glitchy fast. So well done, Peacock!
In other ways, Peacock wasn’t as easy as some of the other live TV streaming services we tested, especially on our phones. We were bummed that we couldn’t multitask: there was no mini video we could watch while firing off an email or answering a text.
Ability to record: Fine
No matter which Peacock plan you get, you’ll never be able to record live shows. There’s no DVR capability, but we’re not sure you’d need it. Most of the content we wanted to record was available on-demand anyway (except for live sporting events). And if you spring for Peacock Premium Plus (the highest-cost plan), you can download on-demand shows to watch offline later. We’d probably skip the upgrade, though. We liked the idea for long flights or keeping the kiddos entertained at the car wash, but we didn’t find a ton more uses for this pared-back feature.
Ability to find: Great
Peacock makes it pretty easy to find the shows you want. Its interface is intuitive and it easily tracks where you left off, even when switching between devices. Parental controls are also super easy and effective. Just create a kids profile for quick access to only children's shows. You can also set up a PIN to keep the little ones restricted to these kid-friendly profiles. As a bonus, parents’ profiles won’t be bogged down with Curious George or Blippi episodes. (Although we’d probably keep a kids profile around just for all the Dreamworks movies.)
There are a few ways Peacock could improve its usability though. For starters, the app made us browse shows and channels in portrait mode, then flipped us to landscape mode to watch, which was annoying. Additionally, there’s no “back” button on the app, so if you get a few clicks into browsing for on-demand shows, you have to hit the Home button and start all over if you want to back out. (If you’re using a browser, you can hit its back button.)
There’s a “back” button on the live TV side of things, but, oddly, it doesn’t take you back a step. Instead, it brings up the channel guide on the bottom half of the screen while your show keeps playing. We liked being able to browse while catching up on the news, but it was confusing at first.
The only real gripe we had about using Peacock TV on a browser was that a lot of the descriptive text (like the channel guide and show descriptions) disappeared faster than we could read it, which meant we had to keep moving the mouse to get it back. It was a minor annoyance, but we’d love to see this fixed in the future. We’re not all speed readers, Liz Lemon.
Ability to share: Great
You can make up to six profiles on Peacock, which is a decent amount, and making new profiles is super easy. Beyond the basics, Peacock has some fun extras that delighted us. We loved picking profile avatars using headshots of our favorite NBC characters (hello Ron Swanson!).
We also confirmed that you can stream only three devices at once on Peacock. When you try to add the fourth, you’re alerted (by the adorable Puss in Boots from Shrek giving you those big, precious eyes in apology). You don’t have to worry about kicking anyone else off their show—but you can’t choose to either. You’ll have to kick them off the old-fashioned way, with a text, phone call, or shout down the hall.
The daily Spectrum TV experience isn't as good as what you may find with other cable competitors, and it's quite a bit worse than you would get with a satellite TV provider. It all works, but it's not the top of the line.
Ability to watch: Good
Spectrum TV uses HD receivers from a handful of companies, but none are very impressive and there’s no way to control which one you receive. The no-frills remote has controls for channels, a TV guide, and your DVR (if you pay extra for the service). It’s functional, but there’s no voice remote or way to watch in 4K unless you have an Apple TV (or buy one from Spectrum).
Ability to record: Fine
Spectrum’s DVR options are not nearly as good as the DVR setups you’ll get with satellite TV providers, and it falls short compared to other cable providers, too. Rather than create its own high-tech DVR, Spectrum offers a payment plan for a 4K Apple TV that’s preloaded with the Spectrum TV app. You can also use your own Apple TV or buy theirs up front, but the Apple TV option requires internet access.
It’s the best way to access 4K programming with Spectrum, but it ends up being a little more expensive than the competition’s top-of-the-line DVRs. If you end service before you pay your Apple TV off, you’ll be charged the complete price for the device. It’s not a bad deal if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem and have multiple streaming services in addition to cable TV, but it’s not a huge value add for a lot of users.
That aside, we like that you can record from either your regular set-top box or the highly rated mobile app, and it’s easy to see how much storage capacity you have left. You top out at just about 100 hours of HD storage, though, so keep an eye on that library and make sure to delete anything you don’t need.
Ability to find: Fine
You don’t get a voice remote with the standard Spectrum TV equipment, but you do get channel buttons, and we like that you can see both channel numbers and icons from the home screen. We gotta say, though, the Spectrum system for showing which channels are free, which are blocked, and which you have to pay extra for takes some getting used to.
There are workarounds so you see only channels you’re subscribed to and even a way to hide adult-themed shows from the guide, but we wish it were a little more intuitive. Lucky for you, this guide from Spectrum can help you get oriented.
Peacock’s website is easy to navigate and it’s super easy to see right on the home page exactly how much a subscription will cost you. It also has a well-organized help page, though you’ll have to scroll to the website’s footer to find your way there. You can ask the chat bot for help, but to get more personalized service, you have to sign into your account.
Unfortunately, getting a live person to help isn’t as easy. There’s no phone number displayed, and the “Get in Touch” button just takes you to more self-help articles. To speak with an actual person via chat, you have to click into a help article, then click “No” to answer the question “Was this article helpful," and answer a feedback survey. Ugh.
That said, we had little genuine reason to seek out customer service because everything worked well, checkout was simple and transparent, and it was easy to cancel.
Spectrum leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to how it treats its customers. Starting with installation, you can do it yourself for free if you have had the service at your address before, but there’s an unusual $25 activation fee no matter what. If you need a pro install, you may be charged up to $50, but the company doesn’t list those fees publicly. Either way, you have to pay for your first set-top box, you can’t choose which DVR equipment you get, and you have to pay hefty fees for local broadcast stations and premium channels.
If you have trouble, you’ll need to contact customer service. We like the online help guide and 24/7 chat option, but the service overall scores worse than average among TV providers. (2)
You won’t see promotional pricing on any of the premium channels like you will with the competition, but we aren’t mad about it. Those promotions mostly amount to hidden charges a few months into the contract, and we applaud Spectrum for being more straightforward.