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HBO Max launched this week adding yet another player to the crowded streaming wars. Max was met with a mixed response but immediately positioned itself above some of its competitors.
Here’s where it ranks among the top five streaming services:
5. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video has the incomparable value of coming with Prime subscriptions. In theory, with over 150 million members, Amazon can convince some streamers it has enough of a selection to move off its competitors. Yet, that hasn’t happened. Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are beloved critically and among certain streamers but neither has put a damaging dent into the competition. Thus, why a company as allergic to losing as Amazon invested $250 million in rights for the upcoming Lord of the Rings series. The attempt to recreate the magic of middle-Earth isn’t Amazon’s only aim to capitalize in a post-Game of Thrones world. Prime Video is adapting Robert Jordan’s high-fantasy The Wheel of Time series. Which has as much potential — no guarantee — as any TV project in the works. Additionally, Prime ranks last in movie offerings.
Hulu is more appealing now that it’s bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $12.99/month. It has never been a convincer, as a stand-alone, to cut the cord (not referring to Hulu Live TV, a competitor to Sling). The movie selection is top of the line— but that’s captivating for a month, not 12. Hulu’s binge options — The Simpsons, Family Guy, the FX series — are not Old Netflix-level persuasive. It’s a solid overall service that has now found itself as a complement to Disney+. A year ago, Hulu could brag about The Handmaid’s Tale. Then Season 3 happened.
3. HBO Max
Critics point to an identity crisis, though HBO subscribers won’t even notice once they realize for the same $15 a month they can get what they’ve been paying for and then some. Max’s library, in addition to HBO’s current and legacy content, has enough for everyone. This includes high-quality movie options from The Lord of the Rings to the DC Universe to new releases. That all sounds great, right? Well, if you can get it. HBO Max is not currently offered on Amazon or Roku, the two largest streaming platforms. Max also gets a slight knock for promoting Friends like it’s the release of the Winds of Winter. It literally airs every morning, afternoon, and evening as a marathon.
The much-hyped debut of Disney’s attempt to alter the streaming wars has gone as well as it reasonably could have. Disney+ inherited a sales team that doesn’t take commission: kids. There isn’t a commercial, tweet, or customer service call as effective as a kid convincing their parents to buy something because their friends have it. That’s the impact Disney+ has on playdates. Aside from the younger audience, Star Wars and Avengers are bulletproof from the competition. For all the talk about the legacy content, Disney+ hit a home run with The Mandalorian, an original that received as much attention as any show over the past six months.
With all the movement across the streaming industry, Netflix reigns on top with separation. In a chart next to all its rivals, there are only a few categories Netflix doesn’t walk away with the check in (family options, legacy films). Netflix wins in binging (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mad Men), classical films (Goodfellas, Shawshank Redemption), comedy (stand-up, Adam Sandler), documentaries (Tiger King, Making a Murderer) and most importantly, original content. It recently overtook HBO in the conversational vacuum with Stranger Things, Ozark, The Irishman, El Camino, Bird Box, and The Witcher. Netflix counters with a knockout after each punch thrown by the tech giants aggressively trying to take it down.