It’s said so often now, it hardly bears repeating once again, but there is just so much good TV around at the moment, and so many streaming services to watch it on.
Between Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV Plus, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Paramount+ and an array of others, it’s impossible to both see everything you want to see, and, more importantly, pay for everything you want to pay for.
For me, the latter is a new problem. Until the start of October, I was Senior Entertainment Editor at TechRadar, and, as well as being a brilliant job, it came with some real privileges. While in the role, I had access to all the best streaming services.
If I wanted to watch a show, for a review or for a feature or just to see what everybody else was talking about, then it was always just an email away.
Now, I’ve left the role, and, sadly, I’ve now got to pay for my streamers. So, as well as conducting that orchestra of tiny violins you can all hear playing a beautiful tiny concerto, it has left me with some tough choices and a list of factors to weigh up.
Streamlining my streaming
The first thing I’ve got to consider is cost. If I wanted to keep all those services, it’d set me back well over $100 a month, especially if I wanted to watch without commercials, which I do, so that’s just too much.
The second thing is sport. I love sport, my wife loves sport, particularly soccer, both my kids, in time, will be indoctrinated to love sport, and we watch a lot of it. Sport is also expensive, again particularly soccer, so we have to factor that in.
Third is time. Those kids take up a lot of it, and with prices going up for just about everything, I can’t afford to have streaming services going unwatched and to bank on this finally being the week where I get to start Under The Banner Of Heaven, one of the best Hulu shows, and one that’s been on my watchlist since the day it debuted. Maybe during the pandemic it might have been okay to have seven or eight services going at once – there wasn’t anything else to do after all – but now we’ve gladly rediscovered the joy of stadiums and restaurants, it’s just not sustainable anymore.
Fortunately, from my time at TechRadar, I have a really good overview of the positives and negatives of every streaming service on the market, and, now I’ve got to put my hand in pocket, I’ve decided, at least for the time being, that’s there’s only one service I’ll be holding onto.
The runners and riders
Looking at the slates for the months ahead and looking at what everything is going to cost, for me, there’s only one winner.
HBO Max is out. As a UK resident (who's been able to watch US services), we’ll be getting both Industry (which I need to catch up on) and His Dark Materials though BBC iPlayer, and, though I’ll be sad to miss The White Lotus season 2, I can live without it for the rest of the year, and I’m not at the stage in my life when I rewatch The Sopranos just to remember how good it was all over again. We’ll have this discussion again in the new year when there’s The Last of Us, Succession and The Idol to take into consideration.
Likewise Disney Plus. My kids aren’t old enough to really enjoy it yet and the prospect of reboots of Willow and The Santa Claus aren’t enough to tempt me back. Hulu’s slate looks good, particularly Fleishman is in Trouble, but that too will have to wait.
Prime Video can go to. I’m a season behind on Jack Ryan and I can’t get excited about new comedy-drama Mammals or detective drama The Pines – we’ll talk again in 2023 for Anansi Boys and The Power. Paramount+ has not made a strong start, especially in the UK, and I currently don’t see a reason to subscribe, though maybe I’ll feel differently when its European originals start rolling out.
Netflix is the one I’m most torn-about. It's got The Crown season 5, it's got Knives Out sequel Glass Onion, it's got Wednesday and a slate of very tempting documentaries, but it’s $15.49 a month or £10.99 a month in the UK, and, with the World Cup looming large offering endless free high-quality soccer, I just don't need it. Sorry Ted Sarandos, we’ll talk again when England are on the plane home from Qatar.
There can be only one
So what does that leave? There’s only one streaming service left standing. Apple TV Plus.
Now, if you’re galled by the recent price hike, fair enough. A lift from $4.99 to $6.99 or from £4.99 to £6.99 here in the UK does take the price from the cost of an overpriced, but not untypically costed sandwich to a monthly amount that requires a decision. But, for me, it’s still worth it.
Apple has had a stellar year for drama, with so many good shows, the brilliant and dark period piece The Essex Serpent, masterful spy drama Slow Horses, and Sharon Horgan’s rollicking whydunnit Bad Sisters all in recent months– and what’s coming up is even better.
There’s a second season of sorely underrated thriller The Mosquito Coast, Echo 3, the meaty military drama from double Oscar winner Mark Boal and another run of Slow Horses. There’s also a good movie selection, including Spirited, Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell’s new take on A Christmas Carol, plus the hotly-tipped drama and Will Smith comeback Emancipation.
Then there’s the back catalog. In the midst of reviewing and family life, I’ve not had time to watch Foundation or Pachinko or Surface, they’ve all good great reviews and I’ve been told numerous by others to watch them, now I will. And we haven't even talked about Severance season 2, continuing one of the breakout drama hits of the year.
Nothing lasts forever
I’m not making this pledge forever. I’ll review it every three months or so, take a look at the slates and then decide which services I want to pay for. Maybe it’ll be two at once if it’s particularly strong month, but I hope to stay disciplined and agile. Netflix email me most days asking me to resubscribe, and when they’ve got a strong month coming up, I probably will.
That’s my plan though, to stay agile and to make sure I get value from every subscription. I hope this plan might work for some of our readers too, because I know we’re all having to make tough decisions right now. So good luck and make sure you watch Slow Horses, it’s magnificent.