Disney+’s home screen at launch.
There are more major streaming services than ever, and they’re rising in price.
I pay nearly $90 per month for eight streamers, seven of which are from the major media/tech companies.
Here’s how I would rank them, based on my own personal preference and experience.
Photo Illustration by Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
I’m fully immersed in the streaming space and will probably continue to be, even though it’s become more expensive as Netflix raised prices this year and Disney plans to before year’s end.
Here’s what I subscribe to, and how much they cost me each month:
Netflix Premium (Ultra HD) — $20 Amazon Prime (includes Prime Video) — $15HBO Max (ad-free) — $15Disney bundle (Disney+, Hulu without ads, and ESPN+) — $12 (with a promotion; will be $20 starting in December)Criterion Channel — $11Paramount+ (ad-free) — $10Apple TV+ — $5
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
19% of subscribers to major streaming services canceled at least three subscriptions from June 2020 to June 2022, according to the subscription analytics company Antenna (via The Wall Street Journal). Just 6% had done the same from June 2018 to June 2020.
But I can’t bring myself to cancel, even if there are services I prefer to others. I’m a loyal customer, I guess.
So here’s how I would rank the flagship streamers from the major media and tech companies, from those I don’t subscribe to all the way to my favorite.
I have a free Peacock account, but I never use it. The content available with a free signup is limited compared to the paid plans, and there isn’t enough available to entice me to pay a monthly subscription for it.
I’m interested in maybe one day watching “Yellowstone” given how popular it is. But it’s likely to move to Paramount+ once its exclusive streaming deal on Peacock is up in the coming years, so I could wait.
I’m also not an “Office” superfan. One watch through was good enough for me.
I subscribed briefly to Peacock Premium Plus (its paid, ad-free tier) to watch the “Saved by the Bell” reboot, but canceled my subscription after the first season. I enjoyed it, but it was quickly canceled after two seasons, so I don’t regret not catching up.
As for Discovery+, I’m just not that into reality TV to pay for an entire service dedicated to it. I’ll wait for it to be merged into HBO Max next year.
Paramount+’s “Evil,” which originally aired on CBS, is one of my favorite current TV shows. And I liked the streamer’s “Yellowstone” spinoff “1883,” despite having never watched “Yellowstone” (which first airs on Paramount Network but Peacock owns the streaming rights to). It’s also made Paramount’s popular theatrical releases available very early, such as “A Quiet Place Part Two” and “The Lost City.”
But compared to more established streamers, Paramount+ is still a fledgling service figuring itself out. When it launched last year, it was hamstrung by previous licensing deals Paramount had made with rivals, such as the aforementioned “Yellowstone” and “South Park” to HBO Max. And it’s sometimes glitchy or slow.
The good news is that it’s on the right track, and I could see Paramount+ rising in my ranking in the future. It seems to be taking full advantage of Paramount’s franchise library, with an expanding “Star Trek” TV universe; a “Halo” series; and deals in place with the creators of “South Park,” “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and “Yellowstone” to create more content. As a “South Park” fan, I’ve enjoyed the made-for-Paramount+ movies that have been released so far.
Prime Video’s “The Boys” is one of the best shows on TV. I very much enjoyed its animated adaptation of the “Invincible” comic series. And its upcoming “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” series will likely be one of the biggest shows of the year.
That’s to say that Prime Video has somehow become a home for genre content (its sci-fi series “The Expanse,” which concluded last year, was also a favorite of mine). And there is likely more on the way, as it’s making “Fallout” and “Mass Effect” video-game adaptations.
With Amazon’s recent acquisition of the MGM film studio, Prime Video is set to become the home for James Bond movies as well.
Amazon also recently updated Prime Video’s infamous user interface. What used to be the worst streaming interface is now much closer to something like Netflix.
Netflix has hit some roadblocks this year. Its conducted hundreds of layoffs, revenue has slowed, and its lost subscribers for two quarters in a row.
I also find that the amount of content I actually watch on Netflix is pretty small compared to other streaming services, which is notable considering it has so much content compared to others. I couldn’t care less about its biggest movies — both in terms of viewership and budget — like “Red Notice” and “The Gray Man.” I’m far more interested in its awards-centric films like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”
But Netflix can’t be counted out. It’s still the leading streamer in terms of subscribers, and is making adjustments to address the losses.
I’m a big fan of “The Crown” and other Netflix originals (though I’m embarrassingly behind on its biggest hit, “Stranger Things”). While speculation swirled earlier this year that Netflix would be more selective with expensive, auteur-driven movies like “The Irishman,” after a Hollywood Reporter story, it still has anticipated movies on the way like the “Knives Out” sequel and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s next movie “Bardo.”
If you’re a fan of FX programming, then Hulu is a must-have service, whether it’s Hulu-exclusive FX shows, or those that air on the cable network first and then quickly become available to stream. I love FX’s vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows,” for instance.
It also has a robust collection of reality TV, including its original series “The Kardashians.” I’m not much of a reality fan, but I have found myself turning most to Hulu for working-from-home background noise.
And with Disney’s acquisition of the Fox film studio in 2019, the rebranded 20th Century Studios is making movies directly for Hulu, including the new “Predator” movie “Prey,” which is the best installment in the franchise since the 1987 original.
Hulu’s future might be up in the air. Comcast still has a stake in the Disney-operated service, which it’s set to sell to Disney by 2024. Speculation has swirled that Disney would merge Hulu into Disney+ when that happens, which is what activist investor Dan Loeb wrote he wants to see happen in a letter this week.
Disney+ has become Netflix’s biggest rival in terms of number of subscribers. It now has over 150 million global subscribers after less than three years, and Netflix has 220 million.
Disney has leveraged its wide collection of popular franchises to great effect, from Marvel to “Star Wars” to Disney animation.
Its Marvel and “Star Wars” shows have been hit or miss in terms of quality, with “Loki” and “The Mandalorian” being standouts, respectively. But as a fan of both franchises, I am admittedly the target audience. Mileage could vary for less casual fans, though.
Apple TV+ has a handful of originals compared to other streaming services like Netflix. And its library of licensed content is nonexistent.
But Apple’s streaming service has become too good to ignore with great shows and an affordable price (it’s the cheapest service out there). I think I watch more original shows on Apple than any other service, except maybe HBO.
They include the mystery thriller “Severance”; the hit comedy “Ted Lasso”; the alt-history sci-fi series “For All Mankind”; the game-industry workplace comedy “Mythic Quest”; and the star-studded soap opera “The Morning Show.”
Apple is also attracting high-profile filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, whose anticipated next movie “Killers of the Flower Moon” is expected to be on the service next year.
When Apple TV+ first launched in late 2019, I wrote that even at $5 a month, it wasn’t worth a subscription. I’m glad I was proven wrong.
HBO Max has a robust selection of movies and TV, and thanks to its library of HBO content, it’s definitely the best TV on any service. It also has an impressive selection of well-curated classic movies you should look into.
I’m also looking forward to its DC TV shows. While new parent company Warner Bros. Discovery might still make some changes given it’s charting a “10-year plan” for DC, I’m anticipating “Peacemaker” season two (the first season is one of my favorite shows this year) and the potential Penguin-focused spinoff of “The Batman.”
Max was an excruciating user experience at first. On Roku, it would regularly crash. But those bugs have for the most part been fixed.
Max will change in the coming years under Warner Bros. Discovery, which plans to merge it with Discovery+ next year.
But for now, Max is simply the best streaming service and I don’t think it’s particularly close.