A Quick Look at Our Favorite Streaming Services
by Mandi Harrison
Streaming services are becoming more and more mainstream; as of spring 2017, 59% of American households used some sort of streaming video service, with 50% of Americas using Netflix. It has become such a part of daily life that the terms Netflix & Chill and binge-watching are integrated into every day vocabulary. But now Netflix has some serious competition, and because it is so hot and out and all I feel like doing is watching tv, I thought I'd do a brief overview of a few of the services that Chris and I use, and some of our favorite things to watch.
I've had Netflix for over 10 years, when you got the discs in the mail and had to mail them back in order to get your next choice. It really made binge-watching time a commitment. When they started the streaming service, the option were limited, but it was nice to not have to wait. Now, the options are endless. There's something for everyone. Documentaries, reality, comedy, drama, horror, children's programming- you name it, they have it. British, Asian and Middle Eastern programming have found an American audience, and more European and Hispanic programming is on its way. We have so many new things to love just from exploring all the categories.
Netflix is probably the best out of the bunch when it comes to categories; they use your likes and previous choices to make other recommendations and the categories are extremely detailed. Shows Featuring A Strong Female Lead is one of my favorites, with shows like Parks & Recreation, Grey's Anatomy, and GLOW in the lineup. Shondra Rimes and Ryan Murphy are among the show runners who have recently signed huge development deals with Netflix, ensuring that they continue to lead the way with diverse, complex character led stories.
They have amazing original programing, creative, diverse and compelling. For the first time in 12 years, HBO was overthrown as the most nominated network for the Emmys. Critically acclaimed programs that people actually enjoy watching- that is a network's dream. They also have a wide variety of movies from the past decade, as well as Disney and Marvel movies (at least until Disney starts THEIR streaming service).
In addition to their commitment to diversity, Netflix also excels at creating programming for teens. Movies and shows that are smart, clever and have heart- something that families can watch together. YA novels are my favorite to read, and a lot of these movies are based on or are similar to novels, so this is a category that I skim a lot. They are constantly adding new movies, so there is always something to watch.
The original movies tend to run the gamut. There some that are like the equivalent of Lifetime or Hallmark movies- cheesy but cute and enjoyable. And then there are others that are high profile, award caliber movies. There has been a bit of discussion lately about movies being distributed only via streaming. Some Film Festivals, notably the Cannes Festival, look down on the streaming service, and have changed their guidelines to state that unless a film has premiered in a theatre and will not be distributed on a streaming service for two years after the premiere, that film will be ineligible for competition at the festival, hurting it's overall chances of getting nominated for a Golden Globe or an Academy Award. Documentaries that show on Netflix have done well at the Oscars, but they are still testing the waters for narrative films.
Recent Favorites: GLOW, Stranger Things, Queer Eye, Set It Up, The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected)
Hulu has been around for a little while, but lately, they are stepping up their streaming game. At first, it was a good way to catch shows that you forgot to dvr (cough Grey's Anatomy cough), but now they have a wide range of original shows, reality programs, shows that are currently on the air as well as cult favorites and mainstream hits.
Hulu also plays a wide variety of independent movies, the offbeat ones. Their original programing is starting to take off, starting with last year's Emmy winner for Best Drama, The Handmaid's Tale. Hulu is really easy to use, it's clean and organized and there is a ton of things to watch. The only hindrance, which really isn't that big of an issue, is that there are 30-60 second ad breaks.
Recent Favorites: The Handmaid's Tale; Brooklyn 99; I,Tonya; The Mindy Project
Amazon Prime Video started as a streaming service and has developed into a production and distribution studio. They have produced award caliber movies, paying for distribution in theaters so they would be eligible for the Academy Awards, and then playing them exclusively through their own service. It is slowly paying off, having already garnered 7 nominations and 3 wins for Manchester by The Sea, their first film released. They also have exclusive deals with filmmakers like Woody Allen and Whit Stillman. They often have the Oscar nominated films available first as well.
They have hundreds of movies to chose from, from several genres and decades. It can be a little overwhelming as it is very cluttered and there's really no rhyme or reason to their categories. Looking through their catalogue is like looking through a thrift store- you never know what treasures you'll find.
Recent Favorites: Love & Friendship, Terms of Endearment, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
This is our newest subscription, and at the moment, it is the favorite. Filmstruck has movies of all kinds, like classic Hollywood and foreign, independent or cult favorites. They stream TCM Select films and The Criterion Collection, movies from Hollywood's history. There are new movies added constantly, they have different themes and collections, and they also have exclusive interviews with filmmakers. Last week I watched a short film from 1920! I still can't believe that we have the ability to have a part of history in our living rooms. The films on Filmstruck have been carefully remastered to preserve the artistic integrity of the movie. We just started this subscription a couple weeks ago, and I've already watched 7 films, with a list of at least 20 more that I have to watch.
Recent Favorites: City Lights, Grey Gardens, Little Women, Taxi Driver
There are many other streaming services to chose from, including YouTube and HBO Now and Apple. It's an exciting time for filmmakers and showrunners to get their material out on more platforms than ever before. And it's a great time for audiences- with more content than ever to chose from, there's always something new to discover and broaden your horizons.