So Many Streaming Services, So Little Time

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by Julian Zimianitis

Nowadays it seems like video streaming services are popping up everywhere, all with their own exclusives and offers. It can be hard to know which ones you should subscribe to, especially when each can cost upwards of $15 a month, and the free trials only last a week. So the Double Space is here to help you make an informed decision on which subscription services you should pay for, and which you should pass on by.

Let’s start with one of the original streaming services, the OG that’s been popular for the longest, Netflix. This one has a good deal of popular shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Breaking Bad,” “Supernatural,” and “Sherlock,” with the recent additions of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Avatar: Legends of Korra.” The movie selection isn’t as great, but there are a few hidden gems there.

What really makes Netflix shine are the originals. These Netflix-produced or owned shows and movies are truly amazing, some of the most popular being “Stranger Things,” “The Witcher,” “Dark,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” and “Castlevania,” to name a few. But it’s not just the content that makes Netflix stand out, it’s the user experience.

Borrowing from YouTube, the mobile experience has easy-to-use pause and skip forward / backwards buttons in the middle of the screen, with sound and light adjustment bars that are thin and kept to the edge of the screen when in use.

The monthly cost for the basic subscription is $8.99, limiting you to only watching on one screen at a time, which is one of the better deals out there. For additional information on pricing and plans, click here.

Next up is one of latest streaming services to throw its hat in the ring, HBOMax. This one has one of the best libraries of content out of all the streaming services, with a large selection of the Warner Bros’ catalogue, including pretty much every DC movie or TV show made.

They also have the complete Studio Ghibli collection, all of the recent “Doctor Who” episodes and spin-off shows (from 2005 onwards), “Game of Thrones,” and a selection of HBOMax Originals, including “Lovecraft Country,” “Snowpiercer,” and “Watchmen.”

The user experience is … alright. The controls are pretty basic, located in the bottom left of the screen, with simple forwards, backwards and pause buttons. A far cry from the elegant design of Netflix, but functional enough. There are also home, search, and profile tabs that make navigating the site very easy.

The price is fixed at $14.99 per month, which is perhaps a bit steep (it’s certainly the most expensive one here), but considering the content available, I’d say it’s worth it. They are currently running a deal until March 1 (2021), where you can pay for 6 months up front at a 20 percent discount (for new members only).

Another newer challenger in the streaming service game is Disney Plus. This one is everything Disney, and everything Disney owns — Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and so on. You’ll know whether this is for you if you like the content Disney owns.

There’s not much else to talk about content-wise, it’s just 100 percent Disney. The newest phase of the MCU is coming to the platform, starting with “WandaVision,” so that’s definitely a big draw, along with the “Star Wars” live-action TV show “The Mandalorian,” which is quite good.

The user experience has definitely improved since it first launched, but the videos still take a moment to load if you jump forward or backwards even the slightest bit. The catalogue is easy to navigate, but the Continue Watching section can’t be edited, and the system has a hard time telling if you’ve finished watching a movie.

In addition, long titles for movies or episodes make it annoyingly easy to exit out of whatever you’re watching (while on mobile), as simply tapping on the words slightly will kick you out of the viewer, making you have to re-enter it, and wait a moment for it to load. The experience is improved since the site (and app) first launched, but it’s definitely got the worst user experience out of the streaming services on this list.

Finally, the price is on the cheaper side, $6.99 a month, but that racks up quickly, especially with shows releasing over multiple months. You can buy a subscription for a whole year for $69.99 (which does save you the price of two months if you choose that option compared to paying for months individually), but that can feel like a lot to spend up front. If you think that’s worth it for the entire Disney catalogue, you can sign up here.

This next streaming service is actually much more than a streaming service. What am I talking about? Amazon Prime Video. Technically, you can buy just a Prime Video subscription for $8.99 a month, but $12.99 is a full Amazon Prime subscription (for more pricing information, click here), which includes free shipping, free video game rewards, and of course, the reason I’m talking about this, Prime Video.

Often overlooked, Prime Video has some amazing content available, such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (and spin-off show “Angel”), “Mr. Robot,” “RWBY,” and “Knives Out.” And that’s not counting the Amazon originals, which have some absolutely fantastic offerings, including “The Boys,” “Good Omens,” and “The Aeronauts” (you can check out a spoiler-free review I did of that movie here).

The content on offer is very high tier, and definitely something I consider worth the money. The user experience is quite nice (not Netflix-level, but nice), and a feature I particularly liked was the ability to mark episodes and movies as watched or unwatched, which helped deal with it sometimes not registering that I’d finished an episode.

I already mentioned that there are several options for payment, and while I can’t completely recommend getting the full Amazon Prime subscription, it’s definitely something to consider if you use a lot of Amazon. Or maybe you already have a Prime subscription but haven’t checked out Prime Video, in which case you should definitely give it a look.

The last streaming service I’m covering in this article is Hulu. It’s been around for a while, with a variety of content available, including a range of anime, FX shows, originals, and other movies. There’s less appeal here, but there are a few gems that stand out.

The 2019 Korean Academy Award winner “Parasite” is on there, as is the Christopher Nolan film “The Prestige.” Several Marvel (and Fox) shows are on there, including “Runaways” (which is also on Disney+), and “Cloak and Dagger,” which is really fantastic. The 1990s hit anime “Cowboy Bebop” is also available.

Overall, this feels more like a subscription you know has things you’re going to watch on it if you get it, since the content over-all is mediocre. That being said, it does have some hidden gems, especially in the movie content, like I mentioned.

Now, before I talk about the user experience, I have to talk about the subscription options first. So, the base subscription is $5.99 a month (or $59.99 a year), but comes with ads on all shows (movies in my experience don’t have ads, thankfully). However, you can get an ad-free subscription at double the price ($11.99), and there are other add-ons that combine with tv and other streaming services (including HBOMax and Disney+). For more information on what’s available, click here.

The ads are definitely an annoying part of the user experience, but considering the price they come with, it can definitely be worth it. There are about five or six 90-second ad breaks throughout an episode, and if you rewind to before an ad break, you have to sit through it again. In my experience, some careful use of the skip button could jump past the ads, but it wasn’t reliable and often caused more trouble than it was worth.

If you don’t mind the ads, or decide to buy the ad-free subscription (which I definitely recommend choosing if you get a free trial, though make sure to switch back to the regular version before it ends if you do that), the rest of the user experience is decent. Not much to write home about, though one particularly annoying feature is that you cannot clear your recent searches, and it is very easy to accidentally click one of the popular searches and add it to your recent search history. Aside from that and the ads, it’s pretty average.

Now that I’ve gone through the major video streaming services, it’s up to you to decide which ones (if any) you’re going to get. And if you’re unsure, maybe do a bit more research into each. This isn’t meant to be a definitive guide, but I hope it did inform you about the options out there.

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