By JENNIFER K. BAUER and KAYLEE BREWSTER
It’s a pivotal moment in TV history, with an array of new streaming services joining the entertainment landscape over the next six months.
In the past decade, streaming video has come to reign in the home theater. Netflix was the first pioneer to stake its claim, evolving from show provider to original content creator. Hulu and Amazon Prime Video followed its lead, along with others.
Now the fat cats have some stiff competition. More than 10 million people signed up for Disney Plus when it launched this month, and other challengers are preparing to enter the market with content designed to capture eyeballs.
Consumers are faced with a dizzying buffet of options and are asking themselves two questions.
(1) How much money can I actually justify spending on screen time?
(2) What service(s) best fits my or my family’s preferences?
To help answer those questions, we broke down what’s available from some of the top contenders for your attention.
Launched: Nov. 12
Library includes: Disney, ABC, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 21st Century Fox, Pixar, the Jim Henson Company and National Geographic.
The Bait: Disney Plus will be the exclusive home to the Marvel superhero movies, Disney/Pixar animated features, the “Star Wars” universe of movies and TV shows and the entire run of “The Simpsons.” New original series include “Star Wars” spin-off “The Mandalorian;” Marvel Universe shows including “Loki,” “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier;” and educational and reality programming.
Drawbacks: This will be a positive and not a drawback to some viewers — Disney Plus won’t have any R-rated content because of a mission to be family friendly. “Deadpool” films will go to Hulu, which is co-owned by Disney.
Apple TV Plus
Launched: Nov. 1
Library includes: Apple TV+ originals.
The Bait: It comes at a low monthly price tag, and Apple has put more than $1 billion toward creating powerhouse original programming. Series include “The Morning Show,” a TV anchor drama starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell; a new Oprah Winfrey program; a “Sesame Street” spin-off; and a sci-fi thriller starring Jason Momoa, among others. A series by M. Night Shyamalan and a remake of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” are in the works.
Drawbacks: It doesn’t have a large library of content to draw from at this point in time.
Expected launch: April.
Library includes: All of HBO’s current digital offerings plus new original content called “max originals,” Warner Bros., properties including CNN, TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. Also includes Cinemax, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, DC Entertainment, truTV, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth and more.
The Bait: HBO Max offers all HBO’s past content (“Game of Thrones,” “Sopranos,” etc.) and new content exclusive to Max including the “Dune” spin-off “Dune: The Sisterhood;” “Americanah,” starring Lupita Nyong’o; and a list of other edgy programs. This is where the beloved series “Friends” is moving, along with the “The Big Bang Theory” and all Warner Bros. movies and shows including the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Looney Tunes” and hundreds of others.
Drawbacks: It could be one of the most expensive streaming services. It’s also confusing to viewers about how it differs from HBO Now. The difference is that Now’s library largely consists of HBO’s original TV shows and movies. Max adds a ton of content from WarnerMedia brands plus its own content. Like HBO Now, Max isn’t part of a cable package.
Expected launch: April.
Library includes: NBC, Universal, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Bravo, USA Network, E! And Telemundo.
The Bait: NBC Universal will be the home of “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live,” Downton Abbey,” “Cheers” and, in 2021, “The Office.” Original programming in the works includes remakes of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Punky Brewster” and “Saved By the Bell;” an adaptation of the dystopian novel “Brave New World;” and the true crime podcast “Dr. Death” set to star Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin.
Drawbacks: Time will tell.
Expected launch: April
Library: Unknown, but it will contain new work by acclaimed directors like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke.
The Bait: Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder of DreamWorks and formerly of Disney, came up with the idea of providing millennials with a streaming service that can be viewed on their phones featuring short films or even series that are only about 10 minutes long. The offerings will be broken up into three categories: long-form stories, alternative content such as documentaries and food shows, and “Daily Essentials” which are morning and evening news shows from NBC News.
The Drawbacks: The price is cheap but, as with all original content, you don’t exactly know what you’re getting until you watch it.
Library includes: Originals like “Orange is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “The Umbrella Academy” and “House of Cards” and streams content from providers like the CW, Nickelodeon and Sony.
The Bait: Netflix has longevity as the initial streaming provider. It was the first streaming service to be nominated and eventually win an Emmy and Golden Globe, as well as being nominated for and winning several Oscars. It has a new deal with comic book creator Mark Millar to turn his comics, which include “Marvel Knights Spider-Man,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Civil War” and “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” into series and films, as well as creating new comics published by Netflix.
Drawbacks: With new streaming platforms reclaiming their original content, Netflix’s library has shrunk. It lost Disney to Disney Plus and eventually will lose NBC shows to the Peacock. It has turned more to original content to draw in customers, but that comes with a cost, which consumers have already paid for with an increase in monthly fees.
Library includes: Original shows such as “The Marvelous Ms. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Fleabag” and “Transparent.” Along with original series, it offers a wide variety of other films and TV shows from other studios. Amazon Prime also partners with channels like Starz and Showtime, but sometimes with an added fee for consumers. If a TV show or film isn’t available, you can always purchase or rent it for additional costs.
The Bait: Amazon Prime is unique in that offers not just film and TV, but also music, books, shipping, and more. Like Netflix, it can boast of its award-winning films and series, including becoming the first streaming service to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. It also has tech to go with its streaming content, like Amazon Fire TV.
Drawbacks: Amazon Prime can offer a lot of everything in all kinds of entertainment, but prices can vary, and if you’re not careful you can end up paying more than you intended to. Amazon Prime, like Netflix, also is facing a decreasing library with some content moving to other services. Amazon Prime is also picky about how you watch. It’s no longer available to stream on some Sony TVs and DVD players. So, depending on how you stream, you might not have access.
Library includes: Original content like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Runaways,” “Castle Rock” and “The Act.” Content partners include NBC, ABC, FOX, BBC, Disney (who partly owns Hulu with Comcast) and Lionsgate. Hulu also has options for live TV and add-on channels (extra fees, of course).
The Bait: Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a huge hit among audiences and critics. It’s majority-owned by Disney and can be bundled with Disney Plus and ESPN. It has also partnered with Spotify, so consumers can have music, movies and TV. On its own, it has a cheaper price tag.
Drawbacks: If you buy the cheapest package, you have to deal with ads. Also, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, the changing streaming landscape means content providers are leaving but it’s unclear whether the creation of Disney Plus and Peacock will affect Disney and NBC content on Hulu. Hulu also has a large TV library, but not as much in film.
Existing and coming streaming services with their monthly fees. Prices are based on quotes at press time and are subject to change.
Netflix: $8.99 basic, up to $15.99 for HD and multiple screens.
Hulu: $5.99; $11.99 with no ads.
Amazon Prime Video: $8.99, or included in $119 annual Prime membership.
Apple TV Plus: $4.99. Free one-year subscription with purchase of a new Mac computer, iPad, or iPhone.
Disney Plus: $6.99. Bundle with Hulu (with ads) and ESPN+ for $12.99.
Quibi: $5, or $8 with no ads; April launch.
HBO Now: $14.99.
HBO Max: Estimated to cost anywhere from $16 to $18; 2020 launch.
Cinemax: $9.99 as Hulu or Amazon Prime add-on.
WWE Network: $9.99.
DC Universe: $6.25, based on $74.99 annual fee.
Acorn TV: $4.99.
Criterion Channel (movies): $10.99, or $99.99 per year.
Mubi (movies): $9.99.
Kanopy (movies): Free with regional public library card or university login.
Fandor (movies): $5.99.
Sundance Now: $6.99.
History Vault: $4.99.
Hallmark Movies Now: $4.99, based on $59.99 annual fee.
AMC Premiere: $4.99; requires subscription to cable or other TV provider.
Shudder (horror): $4.99.
YouTube Premium: $11.99; $17.99 for family — as many as five members; $6.99 for students.
VRV Premium: $9.99; niche streamers consortium includes anime site Crunchyroll; Rooster Teeth, the home of “HarmonQuest;” and Boomerang cartoon classics.
Tubi (ad-supported): Free.
Sony Crackle (ad-supported): Free.
TRADITIONAL NETWORK SERVICES
Peacock (NBC Universal)TBD: Price speculated to range from free with ads to $10 or $12; April launch.
CBS All Access: $5.99, or $9.99 with no ads.
PBS Passport: $5; membership benefit for those who contribute $5 or more per month.
ESPN Plus: $4.99.
B/R Live (Bleacher Report): $9.99.
NFL Sunday Ticket: $24.50; free with several DirecTV packages.
MLB.TV: $24.99; requires a pay-TV provider.
NBA Team/League Pass: $17.99; $119.99 per year for one team, $199.99 per year all teams, $249.99 per year all teams with no ads.
NHL.TV: $24.99; $115.99 for a single-team pass, $144.99 for league games; blackouts apply.
Fox Soccer Match Pass: $19.99.
— Source: Los Angeles Times