With the abundance of streaming services, it has become apparent that cord-cutting, and the mass adoption of streaming is inevitable. However, with the diversified selection, it is becoming harder and harder to get all the shows and movies you wish to watch. In truth, it’s not much of a stretch that the once cheaper alternative to large cable packages becomes just that, bundling services together treating each one as its own channel. That’s why I present you with a challenge, to assemble the perfect streaming bundle with only $15! Let’s take a look at the streaming market, consider the value each one has, and see what will end up in my ultimate streaming package.
Hulu isn’t going anywhere, and I honestly feel it will probably be the streaming service leading the way. Currently, it is going through an interesting identity shift. If you didn’t know, Hulu used to have multiple shareholders with no majority owner (Disney 30%, Fox 30%, Comcast 30%, Warner Media 10%). Now, Hulu is becoming a full Disney product, and it’s already being bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+. Hulu right now is the obvious choice for Network shows and live broadcast (live programming without cable or satellite outranking Sling and YouTube). It’s losing NBC content, and some people just don’t like commercials. Yet, it is probably the one most built to thrive in the future.
Plus, Huluween sounds pretty cool, and that’s neat the streaming service is cultivating a culture like that.
So, I got a free trial of Disney+ to watch Artemis Fowl (don’t judge me) and it’s kind of an odd service. When you search for movies, I am surprised that, in the featured section, Walt & El Grupo comes up before the likes of Frozen II, The Princess Bride, and Black Panther (have fun searching alphabetical or by genre, I guess). It’s also weird how I feel Disney+ is the platform to “watch something again”. Disney fans are so avid, is anyone really going, “I will wait for Doctor Strange 2 to be on Disney+ instead of seeing it in theaters”. It’s high tier more because of the brand doesn’t allow it to be anything lower. Still, the family appeal and ability to house so many box office dominating movies make it a force to reckon with.
Netflix is kind of turning into the MoviePass of the streaming world, it’s the people’s champ, but I don’t know if bodes well in the future. Since Netflix was founded and owned not by a movie studio or television network, it has always been questioned how well they will navigate the industry. In terms of future prospects, Netflix is a seller more than a buyer despite their prominence. It doesn’t have as much telecommunication support, so the lack of net neutrality could steepen the cost to keep their speeds up to par. Netflix’s strength is its UI/algorithms and original content. The problem is their UI is getting closer replicated by the competition. Also, the Stranger Things kids have to grow up eventually; with a lot of their original marketable series over, will the next wave of originals be able to keep subscribers?
The best “something for everyone” option. Featuring portals for DC, TCM, CN, Crunchyroll, and Studio Ghibli, HBO Max seems to respect your tastes no matter what you’re into seeing. The features series, ranging from Fresh Prince to Fullmetal Alchemist to Game of Thrones to Rick and Morty, is honestly delightful. HBO has the goods and still keeps its premium brand somewhat intact. The biggest issue is the player kind of leaves more to be desired. For instance, changing the language is not intuitive. (Why does it display only the option to change it, not to what language it is set at?) Also after you watch an episode of something the next episode leaves fullscreen. That’s annoying, please fix that.
CBS All Access
This is the option if you like gambling on future prospects, or feel uncomfortable completely cord-cutting. CBS has high-quality sports and news broadcasts, and some recognizable programs like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Now that it is re-merging with Viacom, CBS is going to have access to Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, and Comedy Central as well as have the rich Paramount library. The forecast appears it will be a seller, but it’s unique enough with a deep enough well of content to have plenty of value.
Most recommendable if you are frequently ordering stuff on Amazon. Probably the most interesting “buyer” around. Prime is the worse to browse for content by far. Its homepage throws a lot at you and doesn’t do the best to distinguish between prime content, rentals, and content from its premium channels. I have found that Prime lacks quality control. Its brand has kind of been diluted by the fact that for every Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, there are just 10 weird home videos. Still, there always seems to be some decent watches and it’s 4K, HDR, and offline capabilities make it a solid streamer.
The Criterion Channel
The Criterion collection of films is for a particular audience, and it is great if you know what you are getting. With over a 1,000 prevalent assortment of international classics and art house films, there’s plenty bang for your buck. One problem is that it’s a pretty big buck, pricing out at almost double of Apple TV+. Then you have to deal that it is very “mainstream unfriendly”. Its selection is very mutually exclusive from your average moviegoer as “The Criterion Channel only has four films (Seven Samurai, Harakiri, Modern Times, and City Lights) in the top 50 entries in IMDb’s top 100 films list” (Ben Moore -PC Mag). The Criterion Channel can’t license a lot of its recognizable films such as The Breakfast Club and Silence of the Lambs being lost to other streaming services.
There’s a lot of small things to ding The Criterion Channel on: lots of purchase-only content, limited closed caption options when a majority of your service is in multiple different languages, only having movies rather than series. Still, there is nothing comparable to Criterion… at all. Criterion is on the list by request of my editor, and that’s less of me sleeping on art house cinema and me more wondering how well it compared to the entire lot. Arguably, the two categories overall are on-demand and live TV. I don’t know if The Criterion Channel belongs to either of those, but does it have value…the answer is yes.
Apple TV+ is probably the biggest wild card at this level of the game. Am I the only person that feels that the Apple TV lineup looks composed of fake shows you’d find within a TV show? They shot Snoopy into space and have Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston doing a MeToo melodrama. Its got star power, but also, who asked for these? If you’re the rare bunch that cares for really good for device compatibility, this is for you. Their focus is original content and honestly might replace Netflix as the home for random hit-or-miss viewings.
Sling is very comforting to someone who just wants a traditional television package at an affordable price. Its options are like a Pokémon game, you have Sling Orange and Sling Blue. You’ll find that each version offers certain exclusive content. Sling Orange is quality if you’d rather have more prominent channels primarily than just ESPN. Sling Blue is quantity as you lose some noteworthy channels but gain 15 more. I would probably advocate to just pay $15 extra to get the full package. It’s the option for people who still enjoy the art of channel surfing rather than library browsing. The VCR function is limited but still a neat function.
Fubo TV is known for its sports content and being over-priced. What Fubo best offers are channels (Fubo: 100, YouTube: 70 Hulu Live TV: 70, and Sling: 50). I feel this is best for someone into Premier League soccer or sports not often on ESPN’s programming. 720p Resolution for their live streams sounds weak; if live sports is your selling point, I feel that bumping the quality is a must. It won’t be for everyone but will hit a nice sweet spot for the right person.
YouTube Red and YouTube originals didn’t pan out, and maybe that’s why YouTube TV is massively slept on. Probably the most uncompromising channel selection with just all-around solid lineup. You can share up to 6 accounts, have 3 simultaneous streams, and unlimited DVR storage space! The only weakness seems to be that it is a master of none. I find it doesn’t really specialize in any particular brand of content or being able to market exclusivity.
It doesn’t offer enough to stand alone, but the caliber of production quality makes it a prized asset. Owning Showtime is kind of a flex: you’re the type of person who drinks the over-priced beverages in the hotel mini-fridge. If you like boxing or shows like Shameless, Homeland, or The Chi, then maybe spending the extra dinero is worth it.
VRV is the hodgepodge geek streaming service, the Frankenstein’s monster of several other services placed into one nice location. It offers a free version, but it’s premium subscription costs slightly more than other anime streaming services such as Crunchyroll or FUNimation.
VRV has all of Crunchyroll content as well as Boomerang, HIDIVE, Nicksplat, Rooster Teeth, and Cartoon Hangover. The only two things iffy about VRV is that it used to have Shudder and FUNimation, and then lost them unceremoniously. This makes it hard to trust that content there today will be tomorrow (though Crunchyroll and Boomerang are pretty safe). The other thing is that VRV is only available in the USA as of now, making it worthless if you live anywhere else…bummer.
Crunchyroll has no advantage over VRV besides for international audiences (and two more devices supported). VRV might be too cluttered for your taste and you just want the anime, then here you go. It’s the largest collection of subbed anime and it already has proven to be a hot commodity with VRV and HBO MAX hosting its brand.
Crunchyroll’s branding is running full cylinders right now. I am good friends with the aniblogging community, and I’ve never seen anyone even mention VRV. Crunchyroll caters to its audience having a store, a forum, and even hosting an EXPO to bolster that fan moral. Absurd to consider one streaming service on the same level that offers everything it has and then some…maybe but I think a brand that resonates with its audience will probably have more people picking this one anyway.
Speaking of niche audiences, Shudder is your one-stop shop for all things horror. It has some of the classics on there such as Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the main draw is their vast collection of B horror movies. However, it’s hard for me to recommend when Crypt TV exists doing similar content but in the form of shorts and for free on YouTube.
I do appreciate that they have curated collections so you can easily explore certain topics, sub-genres, or themes. They range from Queer Horror, to Foundations of Horror, to Into the Wild, or even Zombie Jamboree. I wish there was more of a draw to Shudder. They have Shudder TV which is a 24/7 live stream of content — maybe it would be neat if they could premiere a low tier Blumhouse film or a watch along with the director or something to make that aspect of the service more appealing.
The international cinema hosting service can perfectly be summed up as Criterion lite. Mubi is interesting because they have a new film every day, but only 30 in total. It’s a very slim selection and to the layman, it’s going to be all Greek. Mubi also has similar features to Crunchyroll in fostering a community, allowing profiles to create lists and reviews, and browse another user’s watched content. Overall, it’s a neat little collection, but it might work better not as a monthly subscription as I just don’t believe it offers enough variety to be worth it on a consistent basis.
Tubi is another free one and you’re more just spending what’s left over to have their library in a convenient place. Maxing out at 720p quality, Tubi could use some investment from one of the higher tier players. Tubi is streaming limbo, collecting things that don’t currently have exclusivity rights, or is in-between getting a deal. While it sounds like the streaming bargain bin, it has some solid choices on there. The Big Short, The Terminator, Megamind, Kill Bill — like there are some actual movies on Tubi. Tubi seems to also have a lot of reality TV options. So if you’re into Hell’s Kitchen or Dance Moms or even Degrassi, then go check it out.
For someone with a taste for something exotic, could I interest you in the film oddity streaming service byNWR? Auteur director Nicolas Winding Refn does extensive work in old film restoration and has decided to release his work. The site is a free streaming service that brings lost or tremendously obscure films back into the light of day.
This service is for the people who want a taste of film school; covering films they never knew they wanted to know about. It is more of an online magazine that features often taboo flicks and offers some interesting reading material. The ancillary material covers vast topics such as these unsung directors, the process of restoring the film, or important topics to understanding aspects of the material. If anyone wants to know more, I will shamelessly plug my own site in which I give an overview of the site and review the first available film The Nest of the Cuckoo Birds. (Let me have this Mr. Editor, please!)
It exists. IMDb TV is a service and is primarily for the quality of life convenience of being able to watch something and then instantly rant about it on IMDb. In addition to that, there are some interesting movies on here Zero Dark Thirty, Hitch, The Lorax, Rain Man, Donnie Darko. Maybe I will watch Philomena and remind myself that yeah, Judi Dench can act. There is just nothing particularly noteworthy about it. However, it is free with sign up making it a decent substitute for movie rentals.
Crackle is the butt of most jokes, and I don’t think anyone cares to take it seriously. It’s probably closer to death than being anything legitimate. It’s not awful, but it has a lot of ad breaks and has devolved into a library of nearly entirely unwatchable content. I feel bad for whatever intern gets paid to describe, “why it crackles?”. To me, this is the worst option you could go with. Yet, someone has to go for it and do it for the meme, so maybe that person is you.
What’s My Streaming Bundle?
Decisions, decisions. It’s also crazy how this isn’t even all that’s available — I’m sorry to all the hardcore FUNImation or future Peacock fans. It isn’t a list if you don’t snub somebody. It will be very interesting to see what everyone chooses. I’m not going to lie, I’m sure the popular choice is just 3 top tiers. That may be the right choice, but I like to show some character and flair. So my package is going to go: HBO Max > Prime Video > YouTube TV > Crunchyroll > byNWR.
Thank you for reading! What is your ultimate streaming bundle? Comment down below!
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