A deep dive into paid streaming services (updated)

Looking over the apps on my phone, I currently have active subscriptions to these paid video streaming services (listed in no particular order):

Netflix
HBO Max
Paramount Plus
Disney Plus
Discovery Plus
YouTube TV
Apple Music
Apple Arcade

These are just the current ones (some are expiring). In the past, I had an Apple TV Plus subscription, but killed it because I don’t like Apple TV Plus (didn’t like The Morning Show; thought Ted Lasso was overrated). Also subscribed to MLB TV at one point, but let it go (it’s an excellent product, just didn’t watch it enough).

Right now, the one my household uses the most is Netflix, hence its placement at the top of the list. I don’t really foresee a future where I don’t pony up the ~$20/month (+tax) for their 4K subscription. Why is Netflix the #1 streamer for us? It’s content. They have the 2009 Where the Wild Things Are, which is relatively difficult to find. (I don’t particularly like it, but my kids do.) Also, the presence of Breaking Bad and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie alone are reason enough to put Netflix at the top of the streaming heap. (I’m working on a review of El Camino, hope to finish it soon.)

HBO Max is about to get canceled. I love their shows (getting into Minx), but I’m adverse to how they release episodes of new shows (2 at a time per week?). Also, since I get Discovery Plus through my phone carrier, does that mean a free upgrade to Warner Bros. Discovery now that the 2 services have merged?

I subscribed to Paramount Plus (formerly known as CBS All Access) solely to stream the new 4K ultra-high definition remaster of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition. I’ve seen it now, and that’s that, so Paramount Plus shall be canceled soon. Of all the major U.S. television networks with an “over-the-top” streaming product, Paramount Plus feels the most superfluous. And even on their ad-free plan, there are the pre-roll ads you can’t skip. (Other “ad-free” streamers, like Netflix and HBO Max, have these kinds of ads, but they’re skippable.)

I currently receive Disney Plus for free through my phone carrier. They have all things Star Wars, so it stays. And actually, the content is pretty great (even more obscure titles like the excellent 1999 TV movie version of Annie are on there). No complaints here. Overall, Disney Plus is a distant second to Netflix in terms of content and value-per-dollar.

Discovery Plus is better than it has any right to be. The content is compelling (some excellent documentaries!). Looking forward to seeing what happens now that they own (the former?) HBO Max.

YouTube TV is my meta subscription to replace cable, which I quit in the summer of ’21. I say “meta” because it truly has everything you’d want and nothing you wouldn’t. (The only thing missing is free YouTube Premium, but there are workarounds if you know where to look.) My only quibble with YouTube TV is their clunky interface: it’s based on normal YouTube, so navigation can be frustrating and not intuitive at all. That aside, the unlimited cloud-based DVR (which they pioneered) is amazing–I have more than 100 shows on constant “record”. Sports streaming is pretty great, too–baseball, golf, even the 2022 NCAA tournament, all look amazing.

Apple Music. Yep, I’m not a big fan of Spotify. My phone carrier offers free Apple Music, so there you go. Really enjoying their high-res downloads (just about as good as Tidal’s). Their radio stations are good, too. And no ads, ever.

Apple Arcade. What’s the point of Apple Arcade? You still have to download each and every game separately to your iDevice, and each game acts differently, anyway (different controls, different privacy click-throughs), which kind of defeats the purpose of an all-encompassing gaming subscription. Maybe if it was cloud-based? Anyway, Apple Arcade… ultimately, I don’t use it, so it’s headed to the junk pile of streaming service ex-subscriptions in my household.

Someone asked about Amazon Prime Video. I don’t know, never used it. I refuse to subscribe to Amazon Prime (although I do make occasional purchases on Amazon, I don’t need the free shipping, etc.).

Also got asked about Peacock. I do watch it, but the free version only. No clue how the paid version works.

And as far as some of the more esoteric streamers go… Curia. I tried them out. They did not show movies in the correct aspect ratio, which is a deal breaker for me. (Yeah, I’m picky about that.) Criterion Channel. Nah, I’d just rather own their physical DVDs and Blu-rays. Kanopy… tried it out once, got cut off mid-video (when I exceeded some kind of arbitrary limit placed by one of the local libraries I subscribed through). Never went back. Hulu… is the PG13-rated version of Disney Plus, right? Nah, I’ll just do Disney Plus. Audible Premium/Premium Plus. They’re expensive for what you get (one free audiobook/month?). No. There are plenty of places to listen to audiobooks for free (here’s one I really like). CNN Plus… sources are predicting it doesn’t last a year (as per the podcast episode linked on that page). I myself predicted Quibi wouldn’t last a year, and it didn’t. Apple Podcasts, the paid ones? No thanks, I’ll just continue to listen to free podcasts.

Tubi is my current favorite of the free, no-sign-in-required streaming TV apps (great content!).