As the pandemic continues to keep us indoors, television and movies have become a welcome distraction from the monotony of our everyday lives. For many students, the search is on for the ideal streaming service: One that has both serious films for movie nights and lighthearted sitcoms to put on in the background. Most importantly, the service should provide good value and a compatible interface on computers and phones. The McGill Tribune has investigated the pros and cons of several streaming services to help you weather your pandemic boredom.
Apple’s foray into the subscription service business continues with Apple TV+. At $5 a month and $60 a year, it’s one of the cheaper options available. Apple TV+ relies mostly on Apple originals, and while most shows are high quality, this limited selection is ultimately its downfall. There simply are not enough shows or films for Apple TV+ to be a serious contender. It lacks any sort of casual fare, and shows that should be simple and entertaining—like Home, a mini-series about interesting homes from around the world—feel too laboured and drawn-out to be enjoyable. A counterintuitive interface for PCs and the lack of an Android app further hampers the service.
For Amazon Prime members, Prime Video is included in subscription costs, while non-Prime members will have to shell out $8 a month. Amazon has produced a shallow but solid collection of original content, but their entire library, including borrowed content, still feels insufficient for the avid watcher. Combine that with a clunky interface, and the result is less than stellar. While the inclusion of live Global TV is welcome, the presence of paywalls and ads is not. Overall, it’s a solid service for students who already have a Prime membership, but hard to justify purchasing otherwise.
For $10 per month and $100 per year for the base package, Crave finds itself in the middle of the pack. Its original content is lackluster, with Letterkenny being one of the few recognisable names. While it boasts some popular classics like Seinfeld and Friends, there aren’t many ground-breaking, must-watch shows—even the movie offerings seem like bargain-bin finds. The Movies + HBO add-on at $10 a month adds to the selection, but it is too expensive for a service that does not provide everything a TV watcher might want. Further, its clunky and sluggish interface does little to buoy its appeal.
Disney+ is the ideal streaming platform for those who like to go down memory lane: It’s as if your inner child curated the selection. Disney+ is packed with movies and shows, but they are all concentrated within a few genres. There are no political dramas or reality TV, but when it comes to cartoons, sitcoms, superheroes, and musicals, Disney+ is a near-perfect service. With its new price increase, Disney+ charges $120 per year, or $12 per month for its nostalgic selection. While the inclusion of National Geographic and Marvel among their selection help soften the blow, $120 is too pricey for a service that might only be used occasionally.
Netflix is the most popular streaming service, and with a price that starts at $15 per month, it is also the most expensive. While there is a $10 subscription plan, its lack of HD streaming and limited screens make it hard to recommend. Overall, Netflix has the strongest content library, with a great selection of both original and borrowed shows and movies, spanning every genre. The interface is fluid, easy-to-use, and available on most devices.
The Tribune’s pick
Despite being the most expensive service, Netflix remains the platform to beat, as it feels like the only platform that can be used conveniently. Apple TV+ and Disney+ are enticing options for sharing with friends or binging for one month. As budget options, Crave and Amazon have a large amount of variety, but the quality of the content and interface lags behind Netflix.
Worth a shot
Crackle has a free selection of syndicated shows and movies along with some original content created for the service. Kanopy, which is free for students through the McGill Library, offers indie films and documentaries. The CuriosityStream/Nebula bundle for $15 per year features documentaries and original content from popular educational YouTube channels.