As we get further into lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak, finding a box set to binge is the easiest way to stave off boredom and sadness, pass the time when the days feel like they’re dragging. Whether you’re into lighthearted entertainment, side-splitting comedy, hard-hitting documentaries or gripping true crime, there’s no shortage of things to watch. Your first port of call may be Netflix, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t miss out on the other streaming services offering addictive shows to watch.
Netflix is the standard-bearer of streaming. It hosts an impressive selection of content at all times, with new titles exchanged for older ones monthly. And then there’s Netflix constantly growing library of premier original programming, which still outclasses every other streaming service. Netflix’s impressive catalog includes shows such as Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, Bojack Horseman, Dead to Me, Mindhunters, Orange is the New Black, Russian Doll, Stranger Things, The Crown, The OA, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, and Unbelievable.
Apart from its original movies, such as El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and The Irishman, Netflix also currently offers the most high-quality movies of any streaming service, eclipsing competitors such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO.
Alongside Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Disney+, Netflix is one of the few streaming services that supports both offline downloads and 4K streaming. And yes, Netflix’s DVD mailing service still exists if you want newer releases, though streaming is clearly its primary business.
Ask someone what they think was the biggest internet revolution of the 21st century and they’ll probably say it was YouTube. And with good reason – the user-generated video-blogging site has changed the online landscape forever.
It lets anyone, however well-known they are (or not), whatever the quality of their content and wherever they hail from, upload their weird and wonderful videos for anyone around the world to watch at their convenience. The beauty of YouTube is that in the blink of an eye it’s taken the broadcasting power from the bigwigs and placed it right in our hands.
Okay, so it might not have stopped people wanting to watch a high quality, professionally made production in their living room TVs, but it’s an insight into how TV might be produced in the future. After all, with YouTube you don’t need a big budget – or indeed any budget at all – to produce your own TV series and establish a massive following.
While the free portion of YouTube will always remain the most popular, if you’re looking for quality content, YouTube TV is also an excellent option worth considering.
Hulu impresses as one of the best all-in-one options for cord cutters, given its diverse set of streaming options. In addition to a strong library of classic shows, and a good selection of movies, Hulu offers a robust live TV option (more than 60 channels of news, sports, and entertainment programming). Still, Hulu trails some top competitors, given its lackluster original content and limited selection of 4K content.
Also, Hulu’s latest redesign brings the service into the modern age. Interfaces are now consistent across platforms and feature elegant navigation menus and a media-first aesthetic. None of the apps we tried suffered from performance issues. Recently, Hulu added the ability for premium subscribers to download content for offline viewing. Although it launched on iOS, this feature is now also rolling out to Android users. Eligible subscribers can download up to 25 titles across five devices; downloads are available for up to 30 days or two days after you begin playback. Not all Hulu shows support this feature, but Hulu’s originals are among those that do.
Note that Disney controls Hulu, so we can’t predict Hulu’s long-term future, especially with the successful Disney+ launch. Maybe Disney will eventually absorb Hulu’s on-demand library and maintain the existing cable-replacement service. Or things could stay as they are.
Amazon Prime Video
In recent years, Amazon has focused on curating high-quality original shows, such as Bosch, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Hunters, The Man in the High Castle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, One Mississippi, Patriot, Red Oaks, The Boys, The Grand Tour, and Undone. Many of these shows are excellent and on par with Netflix’s offerings, though the latter has a much deeper content library. Prime Video also hosts top shows from other networks, including HBO, at no additional cost, though you can add a Prime Channel subscription to your account for full access to the libraries of HBO, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, and Cinemax.
Amazon’s video library also includes tons of popular movies available for streaming at no additional cost. Users have the option to purchase or rent movies and TV shows as well, similar to Apple’s iTunes, Google’s Play Movies and TV Shows, and Microsoft Store’s Movies and TV section.
Amazon Prime Video is notable in that it supports 4K and HDR streaming as well as downloads for offline viewing like Netflix.
Disney+ packages a ton of Disney’s media properties, including from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, into a full-featured streaming service. In addition to classic Disney content, you can also watch originals such as Encore!, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Marvel’s Hero Project, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian, and The World According to Jeff Goldblum. Upcoming original productions include Loki (and several other Marvel titles), Monsters at Work, and Timmy Failure. Note that some entries from Disney franchises as well as most content it acquired from its 21st Century Fox takeover are currently missing from the service, likely due to existing licensing agreements. However, expect Disney+’s library to grow over time as it reclaims titles.
Disney+ supports top capabilities such as 4K streaming, offline downloads (on mobile), plus it doesn’t show any ads. The service’s support for four simultaneous streams and seven customizable profiles features makes it a compelling option for families, though we wish its parental control options allowed for more flexibility.
HBO Now and HBO Go
Game of Thrones, The Wire, Silicon Valley – what’s not to love?
As a streaming service with ties to more traditional broadcasting models, HBO Go requires you to have a paid cable subscription to access its content. If you’ve got one of those, subscribing to HBO Go is an absolute no-brainer – it’s free for you! Go on, download it right now and put our word to the test.
Alongside the new shows of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Westworld you’ll also find heaps of big-budget films, new and old, and the stable of HBO classics like The Sopranos, Deadwood, Oz, True Blood, Sex in the City, Rome and The Pacific. The service doesn’t get as many updates as say, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon do, but episodes are typically added within hours of them airing on cable.
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