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Comcast's Peacock to launch with limited original shows amid coronavirus

(Reuters) - NBCUniversal’s long-awaited streaming service, Peacock, will launch free to some Comcast Corp customers on Wednesday with a limited slate of new content, as productions for its original programming have been halted amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Peacock will promote its library of existing TV shows and movies like “30 Rock” and “Jurassic Park” as Americans seek out “comforting and familiar” content as they grapple with life during the pandemic, Comcast executives told a news conference call on Tuesday.

People who currently subscribe to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 or Flex TV services will receive Peacock Premium for free beginning on Wednesday. They will get more than 15,000 hours of content, including early access to “The Tonight Show: At Home Edition” hosted by Jimmy Fallon.

Comcast has about 14 million Xfinity X1 customers, but has not disclosed the number of Flex customers.

Peacock Premium will launch nationwide on July 15 for everyone for $5 a month but remain free for Comcast X1 and Flex customers.

A free version of Peacock with 7,500 hours of content, and an ad-free tier that costs $10 per month will also launch on July 15. NBCUniversal is evaluating whether to move up the nationwide launch date, Matt Strauss, chairman of Peacock, said on Tuesday’s call.

Peacock is one of the last entrants into the so-called streaming wars, which is dominated by Netflix Inc and Walt Disney Co’s streaming service Disney+.

The service is launching with a group of 10 sponsors including Target Corp , Verizon Communication Inc and Capital One Financial Corp, which will work with Peacock to create advertising formats such as “shoppable” ads.

The advertising industry has seen unprecedented losses as brands have cut their marketing budgets as they struggle with business uncertainty during the pandemic.

Peacock is getting high interest from advertisers because the free version of the service will have wide appeal with viewers, and commercial time will be limited to five minutes per hour, Strauss said.

“Delivering a service that is free is arguably more relevant now than at any other point in time,” he said.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Peter Cooney

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