Q. I have subscribed to DIRECTV for more than 20 years and I have followed your articles for a long time. I have never subscribed to a streaming service so I thought I would ask you which one I should get if I quit DIRECTV and got streaming. I want one recommendation. I plan to try it out and see what I think. — Harvey, Boise, Idaho.
Harvey, you’ve asked the right person. I have tried every major streaming service, both live and Video on Demand, and I currently have subscriptions to several of them. So I have some definitive opinions on which ones are best.
If ‘best’ is defined as best value, I would call it a three-way tie between Disney+, Hulu’s base VOD plan, and Peacock.
Disney+ offers a spectacular lineup of shows from classic Disney films to Star Wars movies to a filmed version of the hit Broadway play, Hamilton. And the cost is just $6.99 a month. Disney+ may not have the deep lineup of some streaming rivals, but what it has is pure premium.
Hulu’s base VOD package, which costs $5.99, includes ads, but the inventory is huge with original Hulu shows as well as theatrical movies, and recent programs from networks and basic cable channels. It’s hard to believe they are only charging $5.99 a month.
Peacock, the new kid on the block from NBC Universal, has a free service that provides more than 15,000 hours of programming. The two pay packages, which start at $4.99 a month, offer more than 20,000 hours of programming. The lineup includes shows such as Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Dateline, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The free plan includes ads, but what a deal.
However, if you’re talking about the ‘best’ lineup of programming, I would name another service. And it might surprise you that it’s not the best known, Netflix.
While Netflix’s original programming is often first-rate, the streamer tends to spread itself too thin, in my opinion. Many shows misfire, and its library of licensed titles seems to get weaker every month. (Especially in the movie genre.) If it were not for my nine-year-old daughter, who continually watches a handful of children’s shows only available on Netflix, I would seriously contemplate canceling my subscription, at least for a few months. I feel like I’ve seen everything. Twice.
So which streaming service do I think is the best?
The AT&T-owned streamer, which launched on May 27, has a dizzying and deep catalog of programming from original shows such as The Undoing (outstanding series starring Nicole Kidman) to first-run films to licensed titles such as The Big Bang Theory and Friends. HBO Max also has programs and shows from Turner (owned by AT&T) channels such as The Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Looney Tunes cartoons and Adult Swim.
Although it’s not cheap at $14.99 a month, HBO Max is a true programming powerhouse.
Update: Warner Media announced this evening that Wonder Woman 1984 will be available on HBO Max on Christmas Day, the same day it’s released in theaters.
I think each of the live streaming services, such as Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu Live, have their merits. But I still find live streaming to be somewhat frustrating for both its technical glitches, and lineup omissions.
Harvey, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann