NBCUniversal once touted the free, ad-supported flavor of Peacock as a competitive advantage in the streaming wars when the service first took flight in 2020 — even debuting with the tagline “Free as a Bird.” But now, the media company will make anyone who wants to stream Peacock pay up.

As of Monday (Jan. 30), Peacock had stopped allowing new users to sign up for the free tier. To get Peacock, users will need to subscribe to the Premium plan ($4.99/month) with ads or Premium Plus ($9.99/month) without ads.

An NBCU spokesperson said that as part of its growth strategy for Peacock, the company is shifting focus to the paid plans. Peacock Premium, the rep said, better reflects the streaming platform’s brand and the “unique” experience it offers.

Existing users who have signed up for Peacock Free will continue to be able to access the service for no charge, with ads, for now, according to NBCU. The free Peacock tier has offered only a subset of the programming on the paid plans, with around 10,000 hours.

Meanwhile, NBCU has offered eligible Comcast Cable and Cox customers the ability to access Peacock Premium (with ads) for no additional cost. However, the company plans to eventually end that, too, NBCU chief Jeff Shell said last year.

The move to end signups to Peacock Free comes as Comcast reported 20 million paid subscribers for the streaming service as of the end of 2022, more than doubling from 9 million a year earlier. For full-year 2022, Peacock had an adjusted loss of $2.5 billion — which Comcast expects to increase to about $3 billion in 2023, marking the year of peak losses for Peacock.

The amount of content on Peacock Premium will continue to grow in 2023, ultimately reaching nearly 100,000 hours of programming across original series, licensed TV shows, movies, and live sports and news, according to NBCU.

Original series on Peacock include “Poker Face,” “Bel-Air” and “Dr. Death,” with upcoming originals including “Mrs. Davis,” “The Continental,” “Based on a True Story” and “Bupkis.” The service includes popular library TV content like “The Office,” “That ’70s Show” and “Yellowstone.” Pay-1 window movies from Universal Pictures coming to Peacock include “Tár,” “M3GAN” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” Live sports coming to the streamer in 2023 include the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Big 10 football. In addition, Peacock now offers next-day streaming of NBC and Bravo shows following their linear TV premiere, after NBCU clawed back those rights from Disney’s Hulu in 2022.

NBCU’s ending signups to the free Peacock tier was first reported by The Streamable.

VIP+ Analysis: Why Peacock Is Right to Make Comcast Subs Pay