NBCUniversal’s entrant in the streaming wars, Peacock, launched this past week, offering a full library of the network’s current season, original shows, and archival “must-see TV” programs, including “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Saturday Night Live.” The network opted to follow FOX and ViacomCBS with an advertising-supported model to differentiate from the subscription model of Netflix and Disney+.

So the battle is fully engaged for the future of consumers’ TV (or, as Forrester prefers to call it now, “video entertainment”) viewing time. The “streaming wars” certainly pit the traditional broadcast networks’ offerings against Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but the larger war will be between streaming as a whole and the traditional broadcast model. Viewers’ time has been drifting to streaming for the past four years, but the pandemic has radically accelerated that shift. Now, with all the major networks promoting robust streaming services, it’s easier than ever for consumers to cut the cord, build a streaming bundle tailored to their own preferences, and fill their video entertainment viewing time with the content they find most compelling. Cable companies will survive this shift since they sell the internet access that enables streaming, but local stations and their owners, such as Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar Media Group, must find new ways to hold viewers’ attention.

As important as content is, Forrester believes long-term success will be determined by the experience viewers have in discovering and controlling the content. Our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community is already voicing objections to the rising costs of multiple subscriptions and frustration with the time wasted hunting for desired content. App functionality and experience are critical to delivering a price/value formula acceptable to consumers. We recently updated the “Forrester Streaming Media Wave™: US Apps,” finding significant differences in the experience of 10 top services, with our next iteration, a Forrester Digital Experience Review™, scheduled for publication in August.

Which brings me back to Peacock: They’re structuring their content into 20 “channels” (growing to 70 by the end of the year) around content franchises such as “The Office,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” the “Today Show,” news, and sports. Their aim: to encourage a new form of channel surfing, which they claim viewers in their prelaunch pilot found to be an easier content discovery experience. And for an ad-supported streaming service, more time viewing content and less time searching for it means more advertising to sell. It also means happier couch potatoes who may just make Peacock their first stop for streaming, stealing time from Netflix and others.

As they say in TV Land: Stay tuned for the next exciting episode!