A Breakdown of Streaming Services
I'm an avid TV watcher and studying in a media program at my university, so I consume ALOT of cultural content. Today, I'm breaking down 5 streaming services, their pros and cons, as well as my top TV picks on each platform.
Before we get into it, here is a little bit to know about platform capitalism.
Data is the new oil. Data has become the new raw material to create things that generate profit.
"the problem for capitalist firms that continue in the present day is that old business models were not particularily well designed to extract and use data. Their method of operating was to produce A good in a factory where most of the information was lost, then to sell it, and never learn anything about the customer or how the product was being used."
-Srnicek, Platform Capitalism
This is why the streaming model is so integral in today's society. For example, say Disney releases a new princess movie in theatres, beyond general assumptions about demographics and social media engagements, they are unable to determine who is consuming their content and how. Netflix changed the game in this sense, monitoring all interactions with content with countless data points and demographic surveillance.
"Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. ... It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes."
Using this data, Netflix learns how people watch, what devices they watch it on, when, etc. From this, analysts make educated guesses about the content we consume, if many people abandon a show at a certain point, or keep coming back to a certain episode, they can alter their content and produce highly curated texts to deliver exactly what our data shows that we want.
The golden age of streaming is coming to a close because of intracapitalist competition. For a long time, Netflix was the main platform to watch almost all of the movies and TV you could want, but the emergence of new services threaten this, diversifying the market, causing us to subscribe to more platforms to have a wide array of content we desire. The following video gives us a deeper look at this concept. Despite the diversification, platforms gave a tendency to monopolize, so it won't be long until one reigns supreme over the rest.
In 2010 this company diverged from online DVD rental services to online streaming and changed the game. As of April 2019, Netflix had over 148 million paid subscriptions worldwide, including 60 million in the United States, and over 154 million subscriptions total including free trials (Netflix). This platform hosts both Netflix originals as well as licensed content from traditional television. As of 2018, Netflix had 4010 movies and 1569 TV shows.
The Netflix platform is seamless, it's my favourite place to watch TV and movies. The endless scroll of titles is easy to browse, and their search bar is highly intelligent, you can just search a feeling or a vibe and be taken to hundreds of titles that match that. Going from episode to episode and season to season is simple, and when you're done, it will begin something similar or something tailored to your preferences.
Some shows are not updated weekly, so you'll often have to wait months until a season is complete before it shows up in your Netflix feed. Selection is also inconsistent between countries.
My Top Netflix Picks
1. Haunting of Hill House
3. Orange is the New Black
4. Black Mirror
6. How To Get Away With Murder
8. Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé
Crave is a Canadian service that you can log into either with a subscription or with your TV provider beginning its video-on-demand service in November 2018. There are 2.3 Million Crave subscribers. Crave does not prioritize originals, but instead leans on its ties with HBO as its main force. As of May 2019, Crave has 1156 TV shows and 208 Movies.
Basic Crave is $9.99 per month or $99.90 per year. An upgrade to new HBO programs is another $9.99 and Starz for $5.99 per month. It is also available with your Canadian TV provider.
The content quality is very high and browsing does not overwhelm you with trailers playing the second you log on.
The site is difficult to navigate and often forgets where you left off. Many options you have to pay extra for, even though they show up in your queue (HBO is a MUST add on). The search bar is difficult to use because everything needs to be spelled correctly and exact (you can't even turn out results for "TV drama").
My Top Crave Picks:
1. The Act
3. The Handmaid's Tale
4. Sharp Objects
5. Big Little Lies
Amazon Prime Video
In December 2016, Amazon Prime video launched worldwide. They have both Prime originals as well as licensed content. Prime has 96.5 Million subscribers worldwide. Prime has few originals but it is mostly focused on (outdated) licensed content. Amazon has 18405 movies and 1981 TV shows.
$8.99/mo to access Amazon Prime Video alone, or you can sign up for Amazon Prime, which costs $12.99 a month or $119 a year and you get all of the benefits of a prime membership including free one-day shipping and Amazon Music.
The X-Ray tab allows you to see all of the actors' profiles on the side of the screen depending on who is in the frame at that particular moment- no more "omg what is she in???".
The platform is atrocious. The shows are separated season by season, and when listed in the search bar or queue, they aren't even chronologically placed. It is dreadful to browse through. Most of the content is fairly outdated.
My Top Prime Video Picks:
2. Savage X Fenty Fashion Show
3. The Simple Life
4. Chasing Happiness
5. The Purge
Apple TV +
This service premiered on November 1st 2019. It is estimated to have 9 million subscribers by the end of 2019. Its focus is on brand new generated content such as The Morning show, but also features licensed content. There are currently only 13 shows and movies on Apple TV+, but you have the ability to pay for any titles available on the iTunes store.
High budget, star-studded cast creations. The App integrates seamlessly with Apple products.
The platform is only available through the app on Apple devices. App navigation is horrible, there is no differentiation between the included titles and the ones you pay extra for through iTunes. Very little selection, and a disappointing launch with majority of the app being paid.
My Top Apple TV+ Pick:
The Morning Show
Yesterday, on November 12th 2019, Disney+ launched. The service surpassed 10 million subscribers in its first day. Disney owns basically everything (check out this infographic) so there is a large selection of shows and movies, and it is predicted to add more titles as its licensing runs out with other streaming services. Disney+ currently has 500 movies and 7,500 episodes of TV. Disney has years and years of ready and available content to provide at its launch.
Tons of content that we are familiar with that brings us ALL of the nostalgia. The layout is very similar to Netflix, very easy to navigate with subsection buttons for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic, and Star Wars.
They will only have content that Disney owns, and it will likely exclude a lot of the gritty movies and TV it holds ownership over- so unfortunately for me I won't be able to binge American Horror Story anytime soon. It's mostly a platform for children, excluding a lot of the Disney owned adult titles. They also are missing a "continue watching" or "recently viewed" tab.
My Top Disney+ Picks:
1. Halloweentown (all of them)
2. Hocus Pocus
3. High School Musical (yes, all of it)
4. Hannah Montana
5. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
6. Wizards of Waverly Place