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The Streaming Wars Rage On

Posted 12/08/2023 by Ravi Apte

Sometimes there are too many options, which can make choosing the cream of the crop difficult to pick out. photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

In a rapidly digitizing world, streaming services of all kinds are vying for your dollar. 

Netflix was founded in 1997 and went on to revolutionize the entertainment industry, forever changing the way we watch movies and TV shows. When it first launched, Netflix was the one and only service of its kind. It had the most popular movies and TV shows available to its customers at any time of the day with no advertisements. At the time, Netflix was cheaper and better than both Blockbuster and Cable TV. 

Since then, however, companies such as NBC, HBO, CBS, and Disney have taken their content off of Netflix and created their own specialized services. Nowadays, access to all of the content that was available on Netflix when it began would yield a bill of $70-100 every month. Now people have to pick and choose which subscriptions they want to buy. 

Netflix currently has three tiers for customers: HD with ads for $7.99 a month, HD without ads for $15.49 a month, and 4k, also without ads, for $22.99. The biggest advantage Netflix has going for it is that they have been in the business longer than anyone else, and their user interface is better than most others out there; almost everything is easy to use and navigate. Netflix also has fast servers and hardly ever experiences delay.  Netflix also has a larger library than its competitors. They have many movies and shows from foreign markets such as India, Korea, Japan, and Europe. However, it is important to note that, even if Netflix has a lot of content, much of the content is not the best. Obviously there is a lot of good content as well,  even if you have to sift through a myriad of questionable programs to find it.

Next up, Hulu has a multitude of different plans ranging from ad supported at $7.99 a month all the way up to $90 dollars a month if you get all of the options. With all of said options, you can get Ad Free Hulu, Ad Free Disney Plus, and ESPN Plus on top of live TV. The live TV is comparable to basic Cable television, but is also much cheaper. Hulu also has a student plan for $1.99 a month which includes a Spotify premium account. It’s recommended that any high school seniors keep that plan in mind as they advance to college. Hulu’s user interface is considered by many to be pretty horrible across all platforms. Their website makes managing subscriptions extremely difficult and confusing, and they make different plans harder to sign up for than others. Their television interface is much better than their website but that really isn’t saying a whole lot. It is important to note, however, that three years ago the user interface (UI) was even worse than it is now, so at least their developers seem to be making positive changes. Hopefully there will be a time in the future when it is able to match a service like Netflix in quality. 

Max, formerly HBO Max, is generally one of the better streaming services out there. For the most part, everything that HBO creates is high quality and enjoyable, and Max is no exception. HBO seems to have taken the quality over quantity route, and, unlike other services, almost everything that they recommend is probably going to be worth watching. It’s worth noting that some more experienced viewers may have seen many of the classic movies before the internet even existed. HBO’s pricing is a little bit expensive at $100 to $150 a year and, although their service is quality, it is probably not a priority for most subscribers. 

Disney Plus is one of the most affordable services at around $8 a month. Disney Plus can also be bundled with Hulu and ESPN + (though ESPN + is so worthless it is almost not worth mentioning). The selection of content available on the platform is also very enticing to some people as they have everything from Marvel and Star Wars to Disney and Pixar. As a general statement, most of their content is focused toward the family and kids market, so those who don’t have kids or an interest in kids movies and shows may not want to consider subscribing to Disney Plus. However, there are still two big issues with Disney Plus: its user interface can also be hard to work with which can be frustrating, and occasionally the app enjoys restarting in the middle of a movie. Other than those issues, though, Disney Plus is a great service, specifically for families and kids. 

Outside of these four services mentioned above, there are dozens of others, all trying to win your money. However, It has been found that the four above are the best because they are well-made, have good content, and are affordable. As more and more competitors enter the market, services like Netflix which started out dirt cheap, will have to continue to increase their price to stay in business. At this point, the average middle-class family or individual cannot afford to subscribe to every service available, so, more likely than not, they will be forced to choose their battles.