It seems like I’ve been writing a lot about streaming services lately, especially over on Twitter. However, one thing I haven’t delved much into is which services I myself use. Below, I discuss the ones I’m currently using, and why.
I note my tastes in TV/movies differ from the assumptions behind most articles on streaming services. In my case, my viewing tastes include:
- Miscellaneous (movies, a few reality shows, sci-fi)
So basically, more emphasis on cartoons, and little concern about shows like “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos,” two shows I’ve never seen. Contrast that to most articles about streaming services, where animation beyond “get Disney+ for kids” is treated as an afterthought. Or discussing at length which services have “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” two sitcoms I never liked.
When I signed up (again) for HBO Max this spring, I initially figured I’d just binge HBO Max and cancel, while keeping Netflix. Instead, I dropped Netflix (after watching everything I wanted) and kept HBO Max. HBO Max’s ad-free tier costs about the same as Netflix, but carries more popular franchises. That, and Netflix’s problems/downsides have added up to the point I’ve demoted it to “occasional subscription” status. That’s something I would’ve considered unthinkable until recently.
HBO Max offers most Warner-owned cartoons, including “Scooby-Doo,” “Looney Tunes,” and some animated DC Comics movies, such as the bizarre-but-entertaining 2018 film “Batman Ninja.” The Studio Ghibli films are also available, as well as current and older Cartoon Network shows.
On the live-action side, I finished watching Adam Conover’s TV series “Adam Ruins Everything”; Conover deconstructs a range of topics, from marriage to video games to the American healthcare system.
Disney+ (and the Disney+ bundle)
The Disney+ bundle (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) is what I have, since it’s a better deal than buying one or two of the services alone. It also makes up for the weaknesses in Disney+ and Hulu as stand-alone services; the former lacks adult material, while the latter lacks some major franchises.
For Disney+, it’s a nice one-stop service for nearly every major Disney cartoon. I’ve used it to watch recent Pixar/Disney films, plus some odd entries like that “Rescue Rangers” “reunion” film. I’ve also watched some recent Disney Channel shows, such as “The Owl House,” the current batch of Mickey Mouse shorts, and “Big Hero 6” spin-off “Baymax.”
On the live-action side, I admit my Marvel and “Star Wars” viewing has waned. (I didn’t think much of “WandaVision.”) Still, I did watch some of “The Mandalorian.” I’ve also watched, of all things, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” the odd (and oddly-named) spin-off of the “High School Musical” films.
Disney+ also carries some non-franchise live-action movies, such as “Hidden Figures” and “Summer of Soul”,” the latter a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.
I used ESPN+ a lot this hockey season, as the NHL’s out-of-market game service shifted to ESPN+ in 2021. Now that the first season’s ESPN+ broadcasts are over, I think ESPN+’s coverage is OK. It’s cheap, and I get to watch out-of-market hockey games, including the games that air on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada.”
ESPN+ also carries some soccer and basketball games, as well as simulcasts of any sports broadcasts on ABC.
The bulk of my ESPN+ usage is during hockey and basketball season, i.e. between October and April.
While I’ve had Hulu for years (either through the bundle or as part of my old Spotify premium subscription), it’s always been a bit hit and miss as a service.
Cartoon-wise, I’ve used Hulu to watch “The Bravest Knight” and “Cleopatra in Space.” I’ve also watched a few films, such as a documentary on the history of Nickelodeon. For live action, it also carries some older sitcoms, such as “Living Single” reruns.
I think Hulu’s been hurt recently by other networks yanking content to start their own services. As such, it’s now mostly Disney’s adult-oriented streaming arm, though it still has some “catch-all service” aspects. Hulu also carries programming Disney+ (in the US) doesn’t carry.
While “Star Trek” is Paramount+’s big selling point, my “Trek” viewing has waned in recent years, as I never liked the reboot-films. In my case, I have Paramount+ because it’s cheap, and also carries the Nickelodeon catalog of cartoons. I’ve also been using Paramount+ to watch “CBS Sunday Morning” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.”
Another use I’ve found for Paramount+ is movie watching. Recently, I watched “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and the original “Top Gun.” I suppose there’s also the 2022 “Top Gun” sequel to look forward to watching (eventually).
Paramount+ is also useful during football season, as it carries NFL broadcasts.
I get Peacock’s premium tier for free as part of being a Comcast broadband customer. However, I rarely use it; when I do, it’s mainly to watch sports, especially NFL football broadcasts. Peacock also carries some live events, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
I recently watched one movie on the service, “The Bad Guys.” Dreamworks, like Peacock, is owned by NBC Universal, which itself is owned by Comcast.
I get MLB.TV for free thanks to my phone carrier. It carries out-of-market local baseball coverage during baseball season. While I prefer other sports, MLB.TV does provide background noise, plus coverage of my hometown’s teams. (Local teams, of course, are blacked out.)
That said, MLB.TV is only good through the regular baseball season, i.e. April to September.
I also make use of some free services, including:
- PBS. The PBS app has some shows on-demand for free, as well as free live streaming of my local PBS affiliates.
- Pluto TV.
Cost of streaming services
Adding up the monthly cost of the aforementioned non-free services:
- HBO Max (ad-free tier): $15
- Disney+ bundle (with ESPN+ and ad-based Hulu): $14
- Paramount+ (ad-based tier): $5
- Peacock: $0 (free as a Comcast customer)
- MLB.TV: $0 (free via my cellular provider)
- Total: $34
Overall, it’s still a lot cheaper than paying for cable, even after including the cost of broadband.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the current streaming services I have. They cover all the major animation outlets, PBS, news, and most major sports. I also can watch other programming as needed, such as reality shows, movies, or documentaries.
While it still feels a bit odd not paying for Netflix as an ongoing service (after being a customer for years), all of the other services cover what I need just fine. Compared to Netflix, they’re also cheaper, have more popular franchises, and/or offer more features.
What streaming services do you use? And are there any shows you’d recommend on any of them? Let me know in the comments.
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.