In the past we had to keep one eye on the schedule, and the other eye on the clock if we didn’t want to miss the latest episode of our favorite show on TV. If we missed the first showing, the only option was to either stay up really late to watch the rerun or – in some very lucky cases – to buy the series on videotape or DVD. This all changed when online streaming came around.
Online streaming has become the go-to means of consuming content for an ever-growing number of people. Shortly after the novelty passed, an ever-increasing number of people continue to give up their cable TV subscriptions and are transitioning to streaming. These were often referred to as “cord-cutters”, which is a surprisingly accurate description for the phenomenon.
For years, the streaming market was dominated by one big name – Netflix – and a few contenders that were often linked to broadcast TV channels (like Hulu, for example). But the growing interest in streaming has prompted many companies to expand online, and this has led to an explosion in the number of online streaming services in the last few years. There are now several major streaming services, all fighting for a slice of the pie, investing massively in original content to attract as many subscribers as they possibly can. Unfortunately, this makes the online streaming market way more complex than it has ever been in the last few years.
Let’s take a look at some of the more important players in the online streaming market today.
Netflix is, without a doubt, the biggest streaming service today. It is available in pretty much every country around the world (with the notable exceptions of North Korea, China, Crimea, and Syria) and it is constantly pumping out fresh, exclusive content to keep its users satisfied.
Among its most notable releases this year, you’ll find movies like “Extraction”, documentaries like “The Last Dance”, reality shows like “Floor Is Lava”, and many others.
Netflix has released quite a few successful original series in the last few years – think “Stranger Things”, “The Witcher”, and “Umbrella Academy”, among others – that are also set to receive new seasons in the coming months. Work on some of these has been delayed due to the pandemic, though, so their release date was also pushed back by a few weeks or months.
Disney was among the first to launch a competitor for Netflix. Disney+ has been around for about half a year but it already has a dedicated user base thanks in part to its exclusive Marvel and Star Wars content.
Disney+ is available in the US, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, the United States, and certain European countries, with Disney planning to roll it out to remaining countries in the coming months and years. Its content is built around Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and Fox – it only has family-friendly content, with nothing rated “MA” (for TV) and “R” (for cinema) available (that type of content is reserved for Hulu, which will be the “general entertainment” service from Disney).
Disney+ is best-known for “The Mandalorian”, the first live-action Star Wars series ever produced.
HBO had an online streaming service called “HBO Go” long before its competitors, which has seen a surge in its user numbers during the time Game of Thrones was on. At the same time, HBO’s parent company WarnerMedia was experimenting with other services, including one called “DC Universe” that combined exclusive series with comics and forums, and HBO Now, a standalone service not linked to an HBO cable subscription.
This year, in turn, Warner has united all of its streaming services under a single umbrella called HBO Max.
HBO Max is currently only available in the US but it will likely spread to every country where the HBO service is available in the coming months and years (there are some licensing issues to work out, and that takes time). The service has all HBO originals plus content from Warner, including everything DC Universe had, and it has a long list of original programs lined up for launch in the coming months, including the coveted “Snyder Cut” of the 2017 superhero movie “Justice League”.
Apple TV+ is a recent addition to the market, available in more than 100 countries. Its content lineup is pretty weak compared to its competitors but it has some big names to back it up, including titles like “See” with Jason Momoa in the main role or Amazing Stories, a series backed by Steven Spielberg. The lineup of shows available through Apple TV+ will grow a lot in the coming months, with many high-profile projects, including the TV version of Isaac Asimov’s classic “Foundation” series, coming to the service.
Amazon Prime Video
The Amazon Prime Video service is available everywhere except Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Linked with Amazon’s “Prime” subscription (but also available as a standalone product), it offers its users the possibility to buy or rent movies, and stream licensed and original content.
Amazon Studios has a long list of original programming that includes everything from the alternate history series “The Man in the High Castle” to comedy shows, cartoons, documentaries, reality shows, and everything in between. And it has many great upcoming movies and shows, too, including one of the most ambitious projects in the history of serialized content: a brand new adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic “Lord of the Rings”.
Amazon Prime Video lets you watch popular movies and TV award-winning Amazon Originals, and live events – all included with a Prime membership.
Another US-only streaming service, this time from NBCUniversal. Peacock has been launched in a limited fashion in mid-April, and it will roll out across the US next month – there is no word on when it will become available in Canada or any other country around the world.
Peacock has an impressive library of content already, covering everything from classic monster movies to brand new productions, including the series version of the classic utopian novel “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, set to be released on July 15.
Finally, let’s not forget about Quibi, the mobile-first, independent streaming service launched this April. The service made it a goal to provide its viewers with content tailored to their smartphones’ screens – it has 10-minute episodes (“quick bites”, as they call them) that can be viewed both horizontally and vertically while offering the same experience.
Quibi set out to spend a ton of money on original content: out of its $1.1 billion budget, it has already commissioned programming that covers everything from police procedural dramas to reality shows and documentaries, including the modern-day retelling of the classic TV series “The Fugitive” set to be released this month.