Like nagging doubts or stress-induced acne, streaming service launches seem to have become a consistent part of our nation’s reality. Quibi launched in April, with HBO Max springing up the next month. NBCUniversal gave Comcast customers a sneak peek of its own new platform in April — nepotism strikes again! — but, as of Wednesday, the conglomerate has also let everyone else have a piece of the pie.
Peacock, as that pie is known, was meant to get a boost from the Summer Olympics, which NBC broadcasts every four years. But with the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, more attention shifts to what remains on the service and whether, compared to its peers, Peacock is worth the cost.
Here’s a rundown of the major streaming services.
The newer folks
Cost: Free for limited content; $4.99/month for Premium with ads; $9.99/month for Premium without ads
What it offers: Many NBC series will make the leap to Peacock gradually; “The Office," for instance, won’t actually be leaving Netflix until 2021. Some older series such as “Punky Brewster” and “Saved by the Bell” will be joined on the platform by new reboots. Premium subscribers will be able to watch Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon’s talk shows a few hours earlier than they air on television. Overall, per Variety, there will be more than 15,000 hours of entertainment available at launch. Here’s a full breakdown of its content (including, and we cannot stress this enough, the Oscar-winning film “Shrek").
What sets it apart: A wacky name. Plus, the free option, though restricted, is enticing.
What it offers: Six weeks later, it must still be explained: HBO Max is run by WarnerMedia, HBO’s parent company, and therefore offers a library that includes HBO but expands beyond to Studio Ghibli, DC, Looney Tunes, Adult Swim and more, including Warner Bros. properties such as that movie series about wizards that totally exists separately from the books on which it was based. There’s also a collection of films curated by Turner Classic Movies. HBO content will still be available separately on HBO Now, which will drop the “Now.” (It’s cleaner.) HBO Go, the subscription tied to a cable package, will embrace the sleep of death.
HBO Max also offers original content not available on regular HBO, such as “Expecting Amy” and “Love Life,” a generic title perhaps more recognizable as “that one Anna Kendrick HBO Max show.” (For what it’s worth, The Washington Post’s television critic, Hank Stuever, called it “surprisingly deep.”)
What sets it apart: Many of HBO Max’s collections are well curated — especially that of TCM, which has turned this reporter into a self-proclaimed HBO Maxxinista. (This collection, however, did spur that whole conversation about “Gone with the Wind,” which was reinstated with a disclaimer.)
Cost: $4.99/month with ads; $7.99/month without ads
What it offers: Quibi, a portmanteau of “quick bites,” offers mobile-friendly episodes that last 10 minutes or less. The entertainment is star-studded, from Chrissy Teigen’s personal take on “Judge Judy” to a show in which Rachel Brosnahan refuses to get rid of a golden prosthetic arm poisoning her body. Despite reportedly losing more than 90 percent of early users after their free trials were up, Quibi still has new work coming up from the likes of Guillermo del Toro and the Stevens Spielberg and Soderbergh.
What sets it apart: Sadly, Quibi’s most notable feature might be its failure. Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg pointed to the pandemic as the main reason his creation, optimal for commutes, hasn’t performed well. Others suggest that, for the most part, the shows on Quibi just aren’t good enough.
Cost: $6.99/month; $69.99/year
What it offers: Much like peers WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, Disney owns so many companies that you could design an entire round of trivia around it. In addition to hundreds of films and television series released by Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and National Geographic, the platform boasts entertainment from Fox, the product of a more recent acquisition.
Disney Plus also features original content, including series such as “The Mandalorian” or films like “Star Girl.” Its current crown jewel is a shot-for-screen version of Broadway’s “Hamilton,” released July 3.
What sets it apart: There’s a huge nostalgia factor at play here for those who grew up with Disney. (And again, they own... a lot.)
Apple TV Plus
What it offers: A couple Apple titles in particular have generated buzz, including “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, as well as “Little America,” the series about immigrants in the United States produced by, among others, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon and Alan Yang. A-list actors and creators have flocked to the platform — though some, like Tom Hanks, whose film “Greyhound” wound up on the streaming service due to pandemic-related theater closures, aren’t afraid to express their “absolute heartbreak” about the situation.
“I don’t mean to make angry my Apple overlords, but there is a difference in picture and sound quality that goes along with [switching from the cinema to TV],” Hanks told the Guardian.
What sets it apart: Unlike many others on this list, Apple only offers original content.
The old guard
Cost: $5.99/month with ads; $11.99/month without ads; all sorts of bundles
What it offers: In addition to its wide variety of acquired series, from “Friday Night Lights” to “Killing Eve,” Hulu has managed to catch critics’ eyes time and time again with award-winning original shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Act,” “Ramy” and, more recently, “Normal People” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” The platform has also amped up its film library this year with acclaimed titles such as “Parasite,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Shirley” and the recently released “Palm Springs,” all of which are products of the platform’s exclusive streaming deal with indie studio Neon.
What sets it apart: Hulu, which is majority-owned by Disney, launched “FX on Hulu” in March. It offers the network’s series, including “Atlanta” and “Better Things,” in addition to exclusives such as “Mrs. America.” The Verge described the hub as “one of Hulu’s most ambitious moves yet,” and it seems to have paid off.
Cost: $8.99/month for Basic with one screen; $12.99/month for Standard with two screens; $15.99/month for Premium with four screens
What it offers: We needn’t tell you much here, other than to note that Netflix recently added the glorious ’90s game show “Supermarket Sweep” to its library.
Amazon Prime Video
Cost: $8.99/month for Prime Video
What it offers: Amazon Originals have also made a splash in the television world, including the Emmy-winning series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Fleabag” and “Transparent.” Films from Amazon Studios, such as “Manchester by the Sea” and “The Big Sick,” stream on the platform after their theatrical releases.
What sets it apart: While you can subscribe to Prime Video on its own, the service is also included as part of an overall Amazon account, which also comes with all that other stuff for $12.99/month or $119/year. (Note: Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Post.)
There are, of course, tons of other streaming services out there — too many to properly break down in a guide designed to be short and sweet. Other subscriptions to consider include Acorn for all your British television needs; PBS Passport for all your worldly needs; Criterion Channel for devoted “film aficionados”; ESPN Plus for sports fans; and CBS All Access for Trekkies, and those who might like “The Good Fight.” Public libraries often partner with Kanopy — a primary destination for documentaries, classics and indie films — to offer cardholders a certain number of streams for free each month.