On Tuesday, NBCUniversal unveiled the name and initial content slate for its upcoming streaming service, Peacock, which will roll out in April. The service, which will be supported by both ads and subscriptions, will feature more than 15,000 hours of content when it debuts, comprises a deep slate of library programming like the comedies 30 Rock, The Office and Parks and Recreation, plus a number of original series, including reboots of Battlestar Galactica, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell.
While Peacock’s original and library titles certainly generated buzz, but there was something else about the service that people couldn’t stop talking—and, in some cases, snickering—about: its name.
Peacock is a reference to the colorful bird that has periodically served as NBCUniversal’s iconic logo and has gone through a handful of redesigns and refreshes over the decades. The peacock, which was first debuted to signify the broadcaster’s color programming, has earned NBC the nickname of The Peacock Network.
In a statement, NBCUniversal chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises Bonnie Hammer said that the reference to the peacock is intended to build off the brand and “[pay] homage to the quality content that audiences have come to expect from NBCUniversal.”
For people who grew up watching NBC, the name Peacock may evoke a strong brand association. That’s why Gary Nix, a brand strategist and founder of the consultancy The Brandarchist, is a fan of the naming choice.
“Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I remember seeing the peacock before every show, so when they said their streaming service would be named Peacock, I thought it made complete sense,” Nix said. “It fits in with the elements of the brand that can be recognized really easily.”
There’s another advantage to naming the service Peacock: The name stands out against the array of streaming services on the market that have either tacked “Plus” or “Max” onto existing brand names or borrowed the -flix suffix from Netflix.
“It’s unlike anything else that is out there now, and no one else can—or would—use it,” said Hayes Roth, founder and principal of the brand consultancy HA Roth Consulting. “It can only be an NBC brand.”
Jasmine Tanasy, the executive director of naming and verbal identity at the brand management firm Landor, said the name also gives NBCUniversal an opportunity to build out a stand-alone brand.
“These Plus services or Max services, those are different versions of one thing.” Tanasy said. “Peacock has a strong connection to NBC, but it’s also its own thing. It has the opportunity to design itself as something new and to live out its promise as a service.”
There are, of course, some risks associated with the name. For starters, the reference to the NBCUniversal peacock might not have the same level of brand resonance with younger audiences who may be familiar only with the more abstract peacock iconography, which was first introduced in 1986 and remains the present-day logo.
That’s not necessarily a negative, though. Roth, who described the naming choice as a “home run,” said that the bird can stand as a positive association with or without a history lesson.
“The beauty of the name in this case is that, if you probe it, there’s a story behind it, which I think is critical to any great brand,” he said.
Tanasy agreed. The peacock, she said, is emblematic of showmanship, of flair and about being seen—a perfect name to represent an entertainment company.
However, not everyone is a fan of the name. In Adweek’s unscientific Twitter poll, about 55% of the more than 140 respondents said they thought NBCUniversal needed to go back to the drawing board.
Alexandra Watkins, founder of the branding and naming firm Eat My Words, said that while the name was recognizable to her as the bird associated with NBC, it didn’t indicate what the service actually will provide. “Peacock on its own doesn’t evoke streaming,” Watkins said.
The choice of Peacock has also posed another uncomfortable problem.
The name, for all its history in the NBC family, prompted some lowbrow humor, and it didn’t take long after NBCUniversal’s announcement of the new service before jokes about the name—particularly its second syllable—began to spread on social media, including from Lost and The Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof.
Tanasy and Roth, though, predicted that the mocking would be short lived.
“I don’t think the detractors have any really significantly strong reasons to oppose the name, other than that it’s fun and it’s easy to make fun of it,” Tanasy said.
And hey, at least it’s not called Comcast+.