How to Navigate the Labyrinth of Streaming Services

At the beginning of 2019, about 50% of U.S. consumers expressed frustration over the streaming video landscape.

Multiple subscriptions needed. Too many options. Difficult to track what to watch where. And shows disappearing from one platform and popping up on another.

These are issues, yes. And with Apple TV+ and Disney+ soon releasing their own streaming services, the maze of content is about to get even more convoluted.

The good news is, big players are still focused on delivering original, appealing content. We know from experience that growing quantity often leaves a mark on quality. But when it comes to battle, it’s not enough to have a large army. You need to excel.

And this is a streaming war, after all.

So before you shake your head at the 300+ streaming services already offered today, and before mumbling, “It’s only gonna get worse,” let’s consider how you can use this war to your absolute advantage.

UNDERSTAND THE OFFERS

Establish what you like. Shows? Movies? Live sports? Do you prefer newly-released dramatic miniseries, or classic western films?

Once you know what you want and need, check out the options.

Looking for original content? Netflix ($9+/month) pumped out 1,500 hours in 2018, investing $13 billion and becoming the only streaming service (for now) to have won Oscars.

Expected to be a worthy opponent of Netflix, Apple TV+ ($4.99/month) has been working with Sofia Coppola, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and other revered names to engage viewers with fresh programming from the getgo.

Amazon shines in terms of entertainment consolidation: for $12.99/month, you get Prime Video, Prime Music and Twitch Prime, the most popular video game streaming platform.

Want cable, without cable? YouTube TV ($40/month) has more top channels for the base price than any competitor, and Hulu + Live TV ($44.99/month) is great for live television.  

And due to demand, companies are starting to offer more centralized content.

WarnerMedia is looking to launch a slightly more expensive service (price TBD) that would combine HBO and Cinemax content, along with older Warner Bros. content (like Friends). And Disney—now with full operational control of Hulu—will offer a combined Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle for $12.99/month (services with standalone prices of $7.99/month, $5.99+/month and $4.99+/month, respectively).

Have more particular tastes? Hallmark has a streaming service ($4.99+/month) that offers its top family-friendly films, along with Hollywood blockbusters, classics and original content. (STRV actually partnered with Hallmark, making its app one of the very few that have been featured on almost every platform.)

FIND ORDER IN THE CHAOS

The most-watched show on U.S. Netflix is NBC’s The Office, a decade-old sitcom. But because NBC will soon have its own streaming platform (price TBD), Netflix failed to secure the rights to the show beyond January 2021.

This sort of content rearrangement is about to get drastic.

With the launch of Disney+ ($7.99/month), the behemoth is expected to take everything it owns and offer it exclusively on this new platform. That includes existing films from Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, as well as ABC shows and everything made by 20th Century Fox.

And that’s just the “old stuff.” Throw in the abundance of new content, and it can be a headache. You open one streaming service. You browse summaries to find something that sounds like it’ll suit your preferences. You check reviews to make sure it won’t be a waste of time. And then you go to the next platform and start the process all over again.

This is where you use technology to handle technology.

There are now apps that recommend content based on your filled-out likes, and that tell you exactly which streaming service offers that content.

For instance, Flikflix created a revolutionary media recommendation engine. You fill in which streaming services you use, choose your favorite actors, rank their films, shows, etc.—and Flikflix suggests what to watch, and where. (STRV worked with Flikflix to bring this idea to fruition—more about our collaboration coming soon.)

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Another easy tool is Apple TV, the free app that allows you to browse content across more than 75 streaming apps. All in one place. Check out free episodes, or rent and buy whatever you choose.

Want to battle this digital onslaught with a more human approach? Netflix on iOS is now helping you pick what to watch next by showing you collections curated by humans rather than algorithms.

TEST OUT AND CANCEL AT WILL

One of the reasons streaming services had mass appeal from the start was the low price. It was simple. Pay a little, get a lot, and get it whenever.

Although most streaming subscriptions are still much cheaper than the typical cable TV subscription, having competing platforms with a variety of attractive features makes it difficult to stick to one subscription. And the more you have, the less convenient it becomes—in terms of money, time and comfort.  

One possible solution? Testing things out. That’s a luxury that cable never offered.

Most streaming services have free-trial options, as well as straightforward cancellation policies. This allows users to constantly update their subscriptions based on what they’re watching, how much free time they have and what the current offers are. (This also keeps services working hard to keep viewers happy.)

Read an article about a cool show coming to Apple TV+? No need to rush and get a subscription. You can do it in seconds later—once you’ve read a couple of reviews about a few episodes. And maybe you won’t be in the mood to binge-watch once that show and the winter are over. No worries. Just cancel the subscription. You can come back to it anytime.

The point is—in today’s world, we’ve got almost too many options. Luckily, we also have the resources and tools to help us choose what’s best. And the freedom to change our minds.

Got an idea? Think something’s missing in the world of streaming services?

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Linda Krestanova

Linda Krestanova

Linda is a copywriter for STRV. A traveler and avid hiker, with a background in journalism, a love for weird food and curiosity at peak levels.

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