With classic shows and movies, original content like Stranger Things, AJ and the Queen, and yes, even Tiger King, Netflix is a household name for a reason. The streaming service has 182 million subscribers across the globe.
There’s no doubt that Netflix is one of the biggest powerhouses when it comes to streaming services, and it was also one of the original, introducing streaming back in 2007. But over the last several years it has been challenged by several other strong contenders that offer different features, original programming, and already-established household names (including Disney and Amazon).
Now we are all social distancing and staying home more due to COVID-19, so what should we be watching? So is Netflix still on top? Which other streaming services are making a mark on the world of digital video and television?
Other Streaming Contenders
There are so many streaming options in the mix today, it can be hard to keep track of which ones are the best. When it comes to streaming television, Hulu is on top. As of May 2019, the service had 28 million subscribers. Hulu tends to be appealing because it brings a lot of different Network shows together in one place, including programming from NBC, CBS, Discovery, A&E, and 21st Century Fox. With original programming like The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s popularity has pushed it near the top of the list for streaming services. Plus, at only $5.99 per month, it’s cheaper than a Netflix subscription
Hulu isn’t the only strong streaming contender, though. Disney launched its own streaming service, Disney+, in November 2019. Already the service has 50 million subscribers, due in large part to the entire Disney library being featured, as well as popular original programming like The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian actually surpassed Netflix’s Stranger Things in terms of digital originals with over 100,000,000 views.
It would be nearly impossible to cover the ins and outs of every streaming service trying to knock Netflix off of its pedestal. But some of the other strong contenders include:
- Amazon Prime Video
- HBO Max
- Apple TV+
- CBS All-Access
So which one is really the best? It’s a difficult question to answer since they all offer slightly different things. For example, if you’re more into original content, you might be better suited to Netflix. If you’re looking for nostalgic programming and classic movies, try Disney+. If you’re an avid sports fan, you might consider trying YouTubeTV.
The Impact of Digital Video and Streaming
There’s a reason why digital video and streaming services have become so popular. They allow viewers to be in complete control of what they’re watching, whether you want to binge-watch the new season of Love is Blind, or settle in to watch The Office (again).
There is also some comfort in being able to watch almost anything, from familiar shows that originally aired 20 years ago to fresh content. Because of that, traditional television services are shrinking.
Most of the major television networks, including NBC and CBS, have already introduced streaming options via apps that can be downloaded. These apps allow viewers to watch their favorite network programming at any time, and they also include “classic” shows (CBS All Access even allows you to watch Cheers if you’re craving a bit of Ted Danson nostalgia!).
Millions of people across the globe have more than one streaming service because they offer different features and different programs. In many cases, even stacking multiple services ends up being cheaper than a standard cable package, so it’s no real surprise that more traditional forms of television are starting to fall flat with consumers.
Staying Connected Through Streaming
There’s something to be said about the culture that surrounds streaming. For example, Netflix’s Tiger King became a social media hit, stirring up just as many memes as it did controversy (including that ridiculous Carol Baskin TikTok song). The same could be said for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has a Facebook community with nearly 5,000 members and millions of engagements.
Netflix also encourages social connection through its services, most recently by introducing Netflix Party. It’s a feature that allows you to watch movies and shows with people, even when you’re apart. You can stream at the exact same time, pause, stop, and even chat with each other (but no spoilers!).
During the coronavirus pandemic when so many people were stuck at home, this became a hugely popular option for people looking to stay connected to friends, family, and their partners. It’s about as close as you can get to going to a movie theater without actually having to leave your couch.
It’s not hard to see while digital streaming is so popular, or why Netflix still reigns as the OG. But with so many up-and-comers creating original content and bringing back shows people love, it will be interesting to see how the numbers shift as more people steer away from traditional TV in favor of streaming.