Let's Get to Streaming
Streaming Services Round-up 2022
In years past I would do a look at the upcoming movies, tracking what was coming out so viewers could plan what films they wanted to see in theaters and when. However, the COVID times have rendered my desire to go to the theater nonexistant. Between still move waves of the virus traveling around (with people not giving a crap and acting like nothing is wrong anymore) coupled with steraming services getting movies within 45 days of their theatrical window, why go to theaters anymore? Get a good TV, a good sound system, and put on a streaming service so you can avoid people altogether. That's my ideal life.
So, at least for now, we're going to look at the state of streaming services to see which are worth your money and where you should go to get new movies and shows to watch. For the sake of this article we're only going to look at streaming services with on-demand shows, not anything doing live TV only over the 'net. We'll also avoid the "pay to rent movies" services as those are judged less by their content than whether you want to bother paying for a movie right now or not.
The Completely Abandoned
before we get into current services, though, I did feel like we had to discuss two also-rans that are already out of the market. The first was Quibi, the streaming platform that went hard on short-form media. The goal with Quibi was to get you entertainment you can watch in bursts, like a five minute episode while you were on a subway train. The network launched with much fanfare and big plans for "transforming the media landscape" (a statement just about every streaming is going to make, and generally fail to do). And, lo, eight months after it launched Quibi was dead, selling off its entire library to Roku.
Why did Quibi fail? Well, some blame when it launched, at a point in the COVID times where people were staying indoors all day and didn't need short-form media to watch during their commutes or on their breaks. People were working from home, sitting on their couches all day, binging hours of material, and Quibi just came out at the wrong time. Launched a year before, or a year after as people were getting back to the office (slowly) it might have had a shot, but between bad timing and, reportedly, a bunch of shows that failed to live up to the hype, Quibi was here and gone faster than, well, just about anything other than CNN+.
Which, speaking of, did you hear the one about CNN+? This was a network launched by CNN to share content from the various on-air personalities. Want to know what your favorite host cooks at home? Or how about joining a book club with another? No? Well that's the content that was on CNN+: low-grade reality content and not much else. It was a for-pay service that promised all kinds of great content you wanted to watch, but people that tuned in to CNN came for the news which, notably, was the one thing that CNN+ was contractually unable to provide. Come to CNN+ and not get the news! it's no wonder th network died within a month of launching.
Sadly, the one that actually hurts is DC Universe, a streaming service from DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. featuring plenty of superhero shows and movies (along with a comic reading app). That venture failed and while the comic app is still up (under the same name) the TV and movie streaming is no longer available; all of that content instead moved to HBO Max which, while nice, isn't as focused for fans of superheroes. This one sucks because I liked having all the DC content under one app and now it's gone.
The Budget Options
Tubi, Crackle, Popcornflix, ShoutFactory TV, et al
While there are a lot of pay services out there (which we'll get to) let us note that there are plenty of free, ad-supported streaming services out there. Many of these, like Tubi and Crackle, are actually pretty good with nice, dense libraries of second- and third-tier media. It's largely old shows and movies that the big players int he game either don't care enough about to make exclusive to their own networks, or simply don't want at all. I mean, where else are you going to find the perfect slice of mid-1990s cheese like The Rage: Carrie 2? That's what these places were made for and I love it.
Now, if you're being bad you can watch these platforms with an ad-blocket, knocking out their only source of revenue (as, remember, this are free and ad-supported networks). We do recommend watching them with an ad-bloker turned off (but just the ad-blocker; whatever other security you have on, leave on, just to be safe). The only way we're going to be able to continue watching shitty movies for free is if we do something to support these kinds of networks. I for one don't want to live in a world where people can't suffer through The Rage. Do you?
The Least Essential
Now we're into the real meat of this list and we start with a network that probably doesn't see that inessential, at least not until you think about it. Peacock is the NBC Universal streaming network that promises to give you all the classic and current NBC shows backed by a ton of Universal movies to boot. And while on the face that sounds great, in reality that promise really doesn't hold up. Sure, when it launched all the big NBC shows moved off other networks and went to Peacock. We're talking shows like Seinfeld and Friends, The Office and 30 Rock. Now, however, you can find all those titles on HuluOriginally created as a joint streaming service between the major U.S. broadcast networks, Hulu has grown to be a solid alternative to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, even as it learns harder on its collection of shows from Fox and FX since Disney purchased a majority stake in the service. and NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it)., making the value proposition of Peacock seem a lot less stellar.
Beyond those classic shows what else does Peacock have? Well, some soap operas (like Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem), a few already cancelled shows like the Saved by the Bell legacy sequel, and shos most people didn't care aout back when they were on broadcast TV (like the very good, but hardly service-selling AP Bio). Oh, and a whole lot of reality TV. That's not a service I'm sitting there going, "man, I really need to spend upwards of ten bucks a month to get this." Sorry, NBC, but your portfolio just isn't strong enough. Maybe in a few years, if you last that long.
Look, I like the idea of a place where you can get all the Universal films (I'm a sucker for the Universal MonstersThis franchise, started off with Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931, was a powerhouse of horror cinema for close to two decades, with many of the creatures continuing on in one-off movies years later.). Right now, though, the service just hasn't brought enough to the table to get people interested. You need bigger shows, something that can make a real splash, and without that, you may as well shove all your stuff back onto Hulu and... oh, you already are. Right, that explains that.
The CW and CW Seed
Look, the CW has never been "essential" viewing. The biggest thing the "also-ran" TV network had going for it was the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. but, due to a shake up behind the scenes that's seen both CBS and the WB wanting to sell their shares in the co-founded network, te CW has been culling all its superhero shows. y this time next year the only thing that might be left is Superman & Lois, and even that can just move to HBOThe oldest and longer-running cable subscription service, HBO provides entertainment in the force of licensed movies along with a huge slate of original programming, giving it the luster of the premiere cable service..
Naturally, the best thing the CW has going for it is that it's online streaming service is free and ad-supported. It is, however, the only place (at least for a few weeks after air) to catch the CW's original programming. Once the Arrowverse is gone, though, that basically amounts to some third-rate reality teen dramas, a few gasps at continuing the Walker and Supernatural franchises, and (in fairness) a decent reboot of Kung Fu. That hardly seems like a slate that will keep a network going.
I like watching the CW more than the thought of grabbing Peacock, but if this network went behind a subscription I'd drop it in a second. The fact that all their shows move to Netflix after their seasons end makes this one of the least essential networks around so long as you have patience. If you're willing to wait 45 days for a movie you're probably okay waiting a year for a low-budget teen-drama.
IMDb TV (aka Amazon Freevee)
I'm amazed this thing exists, to be honest. Started by Amazon to create an ad-supported network off the backs of the IMDb name, this network serves as a holding ground for shows Amazon seems to want to keep around but not actually, you know, put any effort into. Thus we get continuations of Leverage and Bosch, shows that didn't exactly set the world on fire but are remembered by a very small, but very loyal, fanbase. There's nothing wrong with that, nor with carrying on those shows on an ad-supported network, but you really have to wonder why this network exists.
Were this Amazon's only streaming service that would be one thing. It would make sense for the big delivery company to put all their effort into a streaming service and build new shows for it. They already have that, though, and it's called Amazon PrimeWhile Netflix might be the largest streaming seervice right now, other major contenders have come into the game. One of the biggest, and best funded, is Amazon Prime, the streaming-service add-on packing with free delivery and all kinds of other perks Amazon gives its members. And, with the backing of its corporate parent, this streaming service very well could become the market leader.. Hell, if you don't want to pay for the full Amazon Prime subscription you can just get the Video service on its own. This network, then, seems to function to get viewers that don't want to give Amazon money at all but are okay still sending them money from ads. That's weird.
This service should honestly just get rolled into Amazon Prime Video so it doesn't continue to dillute the market and confuse fans. "I can watch Bosch on Prime but Bosch Legacy on Freevee." Really? That's stupid. This app is dumb.
Hey, here's an app that doesn't need to exist. Is anyone sitting there going, "man, I really want to watch all the fine programming from American Movie Classics that I just can't get anywhere else!" No, because their programs are available everywhere else. Mad Men is streaming on Freevee (damn it, Freevee), and Better Call Saul is over on Netflix. If you looked around for every one of the shows you liked you'd probably find them elsewhere.<
What, then, is the value proposition from yet another streaming platform? The answer would be, "you can get all the AMC shows in one place," but that hardly seems like a big deal. Without even mentioning that all the shows are on DVD and Blu-Ray (except maybe a couple of seasons of Halt and Catch Fire, which makes me sad) they're all streaming elsewhere as well. If you're willing to pay for AMC+ then you likely are already paying for all the other networks too. If you only have money for one more streamer to help fill in gaps in your programming then niche AMC+ probably isn't your only choice.
That said, Halt and Catch Fire is great and right now can only be found, in its entirety, on AMC+ so, maybe get that for a month if you haven't seen that fabulous show, and then cancel your sub after.
I know Apple has its devotees. I also know it has a few decent shows on its network (like Severance, which is getting good buzz). Hell, occasionally I even hear one person say, "I watched something on Apple TV+!" This doesn't happen very often, though, and there's a reason for that: the value proposition still isn't there. Yes, they have a couple of shows people talk about but that hardly amounts to much in their current library. They have, in effect, a pittance of content that hardly makes paying a monthly fee worthwhile.
Of the various streaming services on this "inessential" portion of the list, though, Apple has the biggest chance to grow. They're a big tech company (one of the biggest in the world) with the power and clout to be able to dump money into a streaming service (the tech, as well as the money to make shows) and have it work out. Given time they could put together a killer library that really does attact eys and get people watching. Their service is on a lot of (non-Apple) devices now, so there's every chance it could happen.
That said, the service has been around for three years and still barely get more than minimal buzz. Considering Disney+ came out and took the streaming world by storm, maybe Apple is always going to be doomed to be an "also ran" (at least until they can get some good properties under their belt to compete with the mascots of Disney and Paramount).
The "Am I Still Paying For These" Networks
Amazon Prime Video
We mentioned Amazon above with their free service, so now let's rag on their pay service. Amazon is, honestly, in a similar predicament to Apple: they have the technical know-how and the money to get a streaming service up and running smoothly. What they lack is identifiable brands people want to watch. The last few programs they released that I can remember were The Boys, Invincible, a few Jack RyanStarted in 1984, the Jack Ryan series (often called the "Ryanverse") has spanned multiple books and several (loose) Hollywood adaptations. Featuring the title character, Jack Ryan, and sometimes his son, Jack Ryan Jr., these adventures tell tales of espionage, government cover-ups, and boyscout-like devotion of the good ol' U.S. of A. things, and some Mrs. Maisel. That's not a bad selection but it hardly sets the world on fire, either.
Now, sure, they have some programs that could shove them higher into the upper echelons. The Wheel of Time did a decent approximation of being The Witcher and might grow to be something more (although the fact that no one even talks about it now makes me doubt that). Meanwhile their upcoming Middle-earthCreated by J.R.R Tolkein, Middle-earth is the setting for the author's big sagas, featuring the characters of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and men.-set The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is getting a ton of buzz right now because Middle-Earth is ahuge property. But if it lands with a resunding thud like basically all the other Amazon shows (outside The Boys) it could be anotherbig, expensive failure for the network.
Like with Apple I think Amazon can make this work with the right properties, and certainly they're trying. The biggest asset Amazon Prime Video has, though, is that it's backed by Amazon Prime. Most of its watchers also have the free delivery service and the video just gets to tag along for free. If you pay for the dlivery service then you're never going to get rid of Prime Video. Fiev-to-one says, though, that if the video service were unbundled completely from Prime Delivery, it would have sunk already.
I've asked this before but the question still seems relevant: what is the real value proposition of Netflix? Back in the day, when they were the only streaming game in town, Netflix ruled. It had a ton of shows, many of them from broadcast networks, along with a ton of back-catalog movies, plus all their original programming they were making. Since then, though, all the networks have been pulling their content from the streamer (for their own streaming services), letting Netflix only have crumbs. Now Netflix has mostly just its own programs, a few drips of other shows, and a lot of Z-list movies that just plain suck.
It's easy to kick Netflix while they're down, what with their stock tanking, but this is really a problem of their own making. Netflix care only about immediate, up-front numbers and if a show doesn't do well then they immediately cancel it. Thing is, most of the best shows around took time to get their feet. They had weeks and weeks of putting out episodes (one at a time) to test the waters and feel out what audiences liked. With feedback, they got better and became classics. Netflix, though, releases seasons all at once and then expects them to suddenly become winners, never giving shows a chance to foster fandoms. If they aren't all The Witcher or Squid Game, the shows are dumped.
Netflix had a lot of great shows over the years, from GLOW to Teenage Bounty Hunters, and so many other that were cu down in their prime. Most Internet commentators now say they have a hard time supporting Netflix because they won't risk watching a show that is just going to get cancelled weeks later (which only perpetuates the problem). This vicious cycle is just going to continue with Netflix focusing more and more on a few big-budget shows that make a splash while all their other shows languish and die.
Couple that with the fact they keep raising their rates, and they're cracking down on password sharing even among family members, and Netflix is now one of the most inessential streamers to keep a subscription to. You're better off grabbing a scrip to see one or two shows you like and then cancelling for a few months until the next thing comes out that you want to watch. Paying 15 bucks one month to see the latest Witcher and Stranger Things before cancelling ad aiting six months to do it again seems like a much better prospect than keep Netflix on your dial at all times.
On it's face Hulu doesn't seem that essential. It's like Amazon Prime and Apple TV+ in that it has a few decent shows but its wouldn't seem to have anything that would make it stand out from the crowd. And yet, the value proposition for Hulu is much greater than other networks we've already discussed, in large part because of the way it was created and the stuff hat regularly gets dumped on the netwok.
To start, Hulu gets a lot of broadcast shows soon after they air. They have releases from ABC and FOX (and a few still from NBC, although not as many as in the past), making this a solid substitute for broadcast TV (if you want the shows but don't want to pay for cable or hook rabbit ears up to your TV). Along with that, some of its exclusive shows are pretty solid. That does depend on how much you care about The Great, or The Orville, or Letterkenny (among others), but each of those shows do have loyal, rabid fan-bases.
On top of that, Hulu acts as Disney's dumping ground for anything that isn't family-friendly enough for Disney+. This isn't just the odd Marvel movies with a solid Hard-R, such as Deadpool, but also shows they want to dvelop with characters that won't work in the wider Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe., like MODOK and Hit-Monkey. Disney has a huge back catalogue considerng not only its main brand but also Touchstone Pictures and Fox Studios and anything that they can't or won't put on Disney+ comes to Hulu.
Couple that with the fact you can get Hulu for a couple of extra bucks on top of a Disney+ subscription (and ESPN+ if you really care about that, which I don't) and it's hard to pass up Hulu. Value and great content all in one.
Back when Paramount+ was just CBS All Access the value proposition of the network seemed to be lacking. Sue, it had a couple of Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture. shows but not much else. CBS's original TV programming is a lot of police procedurals and shows that the over-60 crowd like and while I might be old I am nowhere near that old. In geneal the shows CBS has aren't for me (beyond "Space, the final frontier...").
But then CBS and Paramount merged together (after splitting apart a decade or so earlier) and the app was reinvented as Paramount+. Now we have a network that's actually worth watching. For starters, there's way more Star Trek on here than there was before as the combined company was willing to shell out more to really drive one of the biggest draws for the streaming network. There are also shows like Evil and Halo, which I swear some people like (although I don't) and the network has a lot going for it.
At with Hulu, though, the real value comes with everything else the combined company has to offer. All their old shows, plus all their old movies, and plenty of new releases too. Want to watch the new Sonic 2? It's already on there, and I'm sure Top Gun 2: Topper Gunner will arrive shortly as well. Paramount+ is what Peacock dreams of being, but they actually have the content, new and old, to make it work. Where Peacock could fall apart and no one would care, Paramount+ actually is a must-have (at least in my household).
For those mourning the loss of the DC Universe streaming app this is what you should get as all that content is over here on HBO Max now, along with newer seasons coming soon. That alone will probably get some people to pick up a sub, for sure. For everyone else, the value proposition is still good because tis network has all of that plus everything from HBO and more. Again, it's all the content you can watch from a particular brand, all under one roof.
The key resource that HBO taps into, along with all the original HBO programming (which, mind you, is great on its own), is everything from Warner Bros. Like with Peacock having Universal and Paramount+ having, well, Paramount, HBO having the whole back catalog of Warner Bros adds a lot of value to this whole proposition. That's decades worth of movies and shows now available through the HBO app, granting everything from, yes, DC Comics to Harry PotterFirst released as a series of books (starting in the UK before moving worldwide), the Harry Potter series gained great acclaim before even becoming a series of successful movies. Now encompassing books, films, a prequel series, and a successful two-part play, the series even now shows no end in sight., a ton of Christopher NolanMade famous when his second film, Memento, became an art-house hit, Nolan became a household name with his Dark Knight trilogy, quickly becoming one of Hollywoods biggest directors. films, all the Peter Jackson Middle-Earth movies, everything fron New Line Cinema, and a ton more. It's a lot of content.
I actually find myself randomly flipping through HBO more than most streamers when I'm just looking for something random (and, usually, stupid) to watch. Other networks I pay attention to just for their new content above all else, but with HBO Max I like to just browse, almost like I'm back in the living room in my family's old house, flipping through the movie channels to find something to kill time. It's great.
When it comes to original content, though, nothing can really beat Disney+. Disney, of course, is the mega-monopoly that owns a good fifty-percent of Hollywood at this point. It's not just Disney but also Lucasfilm (with Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. and Indiana Jones and even Willow), Fox Studios, Marvel, and a ton more. Disney is the 800lb gorilla that all other Hollywood studios want to be.
That means that even if it was just old content from a back-catalogue Disney+ would have so much that you'd want to watch. But then you have to take into all the new stuff regularly added in. We're talking all the MCU shows, Star Wars stories, Disney remakes and continuations... it just goes on and on.
The other thing Disney does that honestly makes sense is they drip out their content. Where Netflix will release one big show a month, all at once, and try to keep subscribers in via the promise of the next show coming soon, Disney does a weekly release schedule. Sometimes their shows overlap (right now we have both Obi-Wan and Ms. Marvel going at the same time), but just constantly having one show going every week keeps people hooked and helps to build buzz. That fosters fans and ensures that a successful show will get further seasons (to their credit, Paramount does this too).
Oh,a nd don't forget that new MCU and Star Wars movies will come to Disney+ first once their theatrical windows are done. That means, then, that Disney offers both a great catalogue, new movies, and new shows, all the time. Couple that with a decent subscription price and the ability to add Hulu on for a pittance and you have everything you need right here. Honestly, if you only wanted one streaming service it's hard to argue against Disney+ above all else.