2016 was a simpler time. A raging lunatic wasn’t the United States president. TikTok? You mean that Kesha song? No one was saying the word “yeet” yet. Oh, and most people only used like, three different streaming services and that was that.
It’s 2020 and of course there’s nearly 50 different services. At least it seems that overwhelming.
Luckily for us consumers (not), production companies like NBC, Warner Bros, Disney, etc realized that, instead of licensing content to companies like Netflix or Hulu, they can just publish content on their own services. So in the last two years, Disney launched Disney+, Warner Bros gave us HBO Max, NBC gave us Peacock, and ViacomCBS announced Paramount+ for 2021.
The question still remains: is anyone…ahead?
Netflix still isn’t profitable. They’re spending billions on content, attempting to save themselves from their inevitable collapse when they are forced to produce original content. They’ve been focusing on a few dramas and sci-fi shows like Stranger Things, they’ve stepped into comedy — although they consistently cancel great shows prematurely (BoJack Horseman, rip).
Even with constant debt, Netflix is still worth something. The service pioneered streaming the way we see it today. But how do they line up with other services? At first, it was assumed through the industry that Warner’s HBO Max would struggle to gain a viewership, but that hasn’t been the case.
At the end of 2020’s Q1, Netflix had around 183 million subscribers — leading the industry. At the end of October, HBO Max was near 30 million subscribers, although AT&T counts ‘activations’ of the plan’s premium channel. Compare that with Hulu — barely over the 37 million mark. Disney+, meanwhile, surpassed 50 million in May, and are now almost nearing 75 million subscribers.
It’s worth mentioning that Netflix is available globally and Hulu is only available in the U.S.
So is there a clear favorite? Let’s break it down.
Thankfully for Netflix, they are best known for their vast variety (which is closing in quickly) and their super easy-to-navigate apps — unlike Hulu’s, which just got around to actually having a clean layout built for its devices.
Personally, I cancelled my Netflix subscription after they removed the license for That 70s Show. I love the Office too and maybe the Good Place, but nothing else was really keeping me.
Blockbuster was actually given the opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000, but their CEO thought Netflix was a joke. Hindsight is 20/20…I guess?
HBO Max (Warner Bros)
I did cancel Netflix, but I replaced it with the very-purple HBO Max. They have almost everything and I cannot stop recommending it.
As I mentioned earlier, at first I was almost certain that AT&T-owned HBO Max would really struggle to maintain viewership. For them, it hasn’t really been a problem. Disney obviously has such a massive following and is going to have a stronger launch, besides the fact that Disney+ is $6 whereas HBO Max is $15. The content is worth it.
Here’s just some of what HBO Max features: Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Tom & Jerry and any Cartoon Network show, Rick and Morty and anything on Adult Swim, most from TruTV, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air…and lots more. Lots.
It’s almost like HBO Max is Netflix priced with content better fitted towards me. I love it and would really recommend it to anyone.
This one has been a staple in tons of households simply for the price itself. I’ve had Hulu consistently since 2017 and that’s just because it’s so cheap. There’s been no reason to justify the price since the ad-supported version is the price of a Starbucks drink.
Granted, I pay for Hulu Live TV — in avoidance of Google-owned YouTube TV — so now my bill is closer to $60 than it is to $5. Still, Hulu has an excellent amount of content for a great price.
There is a good reason why Disney+ had such a good launch. The service is easy to use, there’s tons of Disney-owned favorites and more than enough for everyone to enjoy.
For me, I just rewatched the Mighty Ducks trilogy. My girlfriend is a huge fan of Aladdin. With Moana, Spider-Man, the Simpsons, and tons (I mean tons) more, signing up for Disney+ is a no-brainer.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock has a different pricing model than what you’d see traditionally. First of all, the full service is free to any Comcast/Xfinity TV subscriber.
There are three pricing tiers: Free, Premium, and Premium Plus. The free version includes a limited amount of content such as Shrek, Space Jam, the Voice, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Everybody Hates Chris, just to get an idea. Upgrading to Premium will get you everything Peacock has to offer including shows — Superstore, Chicken Run, Kicking & Screaming, Brooklyn 99, eventually The Office once it leaves Netflix — and live sporting events. Premium Plus will grant you everything in Premium with no ads.
I see Peacock as a niche service. It’ll serve a lot of people but I would imagine most might just end up paying for the free version. Or if you have Comcast/Xfinity TV, you already have access to the service.
If you’ve bought a new iPhone recently, you have access to Apple TV+. Even though Apple has struggled to bring in new paying subscribers, they’re definitely pouring a lot of money into the service.
My current favorite on Apple TV+ has been The Morning Show featuring Jennifer Anniston and Steve Carell. But there’s a lot of originals to enjoy here as well from Central Park to Dickinson.
Apple TV+ is worth subscribing to, especially if you have any two of Apple’s services since Apple Music, Arcade, and TV+ can be bundled together as apart of Apple One. All the tech giant needs to do now is prove to consumers that they’re worth watching.
So which is the best?
It really just depends on who you’re talking to.
I know a lot of people were surprised by how much HBO Max had to offer, especially since HBO has a rough reputation for being home to so many fringe TV shows that not as many are interested in. But they have quite the selection, even hosting a lot of CBS’ content since ViacomCBS still doesn’t have their own streaming service quite yet.
ViacomCBS is rebranding CBS All Access as Paramount+ in 2021 to feature their other brands — MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Paramount (ex-Spike TV), The CW, BET, and more.
Netflix and Disney+ seem like such a staple in most lives, it’s hard to imagine a large group choosing any competitors over either service.
Obviously, it makes sense that this is where we are. The lifespan of TV seemingly went from cable packages to piracy to streaming which killed piracy, now these companies are taking back that revenue via their own services. HBO Max seems to understand this as they announced their entire slate of 2021 Warner Bros films will hit the service the same day they hit theaters.
Could you imagine if this happened to music…if the big three distributors said “Off with Apple Music and Spotify!! We’ll just launch our own services!” And all of a sudden you need three different apps for music alone?
In the end, everyone’s bills are increasing by $10–15/mo due to streaming and right now, there’s no clear-cut winner yet. I do recommend cutting your cable or satellite subscription — because it’s not 2005 anymore — for something better like Hulu Live TV or YouTube TV.
Just don’t subscribe to Quibi and you’ll get your money’s worth.