Streaming Services: First 2023 POWER RANKINGS (And what's up with Prime?)

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One feature of conversations we often have here on EnWorld about geek media is that they get sidetracked into conversations about the various streaming services that are currently offering the content. So while you want to have a conversation about Captain Pike's amazingly dreamy hair and cooking skills on Strange New Worlds, you instead end up discussing Paramount+. Or instead of being able to chat about the delightfully awesome and weird Severance, you end up debating the merits of AppleTV+.

Therefore, as a public service, I have decided to create these series of threads - for talking about the relative merits of streaming platforms, as well as to all people to provide their own power rankings of the platforms. This is the fourth post on the subject.
The original post in August is here.
The second post in November is here.
The year-end rankings are here.

I apologize but these posts are going to be US-centric. That's because I am reasonably certain that the 'Murika is the only country, and that every time I have flown "outside the US" I have actually only gone to the World Showcase of Epcot ... which, wow, there is sauerkraut in my lederhosen!

As usual, the POWER RANKINGS are an excuse to talk about something in the news. And as usual, one of the topics of conversation will be HBOMax- seriously, what are they doing? The other topic will be Prime ... huh? So if you're looking for the good stuff, just go to those entries.

How are power rankings determined? They are a completely subjective mix of my opinion as to how the service is doing currently, along with my belief in how the service will be doing in the future. In addition, I will provide a trend (up, down, steady).

1. Netflix. (August: 1, November: 1, 2022: 1)
Netflix had, for Netflix, a relatively rough year. The stock price went from $690 in October of 2021 to $175 in June of 2022. Not great, Bob! But the stock price has roughly doubled since that low point, and for good reason.

Are we still at peak Netflix? No. Will Netflix continue to see meteoric growth? Ha, no. But Netflix has a brand, a massive audience, a global reach, and the ability to keep people on the platform; perhaps most importantly, it is one of the few services that doesn't demand continued subsidies from other sources. Unfortunately, this also means that we are seeing Netflix pivot to making more material that is completely disposable- less "event" and "prestige" television and movies, and more, "Eh, might as well see if people can tell the difference between cake and non-cake."


2. HBOMax (August: 4, November 3, 2022: 8)
I'm as shocked as you are. Just look at the prior rankings. So let's get this out of the way. Do I have any confidence in HBOMax's leadership? You're kidding, right? I hate the things that Zaslav has been doing so much that I cancelled it after I finished White Lotus. Heck, let's just list the various terrible things going on-
-Getting rid of entire shows from the streaming service (pour one out for Westworld, yo) because they don't want to pay the residuals.
-Un-renewing shows (sigh, Minx).
-Likely changing the name of the service to "Max" or something else stupid because they don't want people to think they're, um, good.
-Leaning hard into reality TV and Discovery-type programs like Dr. Pimple Popper.
-Apparently greenlighting a Harry Potter show, based on the original books, which is just not a great look, at all.

It's just a mess- if Zaslav was trying to destroy a brand, he'd be hard-pressed to be doing a better job. So why is it number 2 (and not in that sense?). Well, in the same way that "Scoreboard" is the rallying cry in sports, "Content" is the rallying cry for streaming services. And the thing is ... Zaslav hasn't pulled everything from the vast HBOMax catalog, nor has he managed to completely destroy the HBO pipeline. The Last of Us and Succession started the year, and we're about the get the final season of Barry. Combine that with continued good movie content, and, for now, it remains a solid streaming choice.


3. AppleTV+. (August: 3, November 5, 2022: 3)
Weirdly, AppleTV+ is ranked so highly not because of its content (still sparse overall) but because it has a focus on quality and the backing of Apple to keep pouring money into it. It's already won Emmys, and the fact that it got a Best Picture Oscar has to sting Netflix ... a lot. But they are positioning themselves as the new HBO- curated and quality programs.


4. Hulu. (August: 7, November: 2, 2022: 5).
The toughest service to rank for a simple reason. In terms of content, it is at, or near, the level of HBOMax. It has an amazing library of quality content, especially with the FX programming. On the other hand, it is a streaming service that is owned by Disney and Comcast (Peacock), which means that one way or another, it cannot be long for this world. Whether it gets folded into Disney+ as "Adult Disney+" (as it is in many other parts of the world) or sold to Comcast, the situation is untenable.


5. Disney+. (August: 2, November: 4, 2022: 2).
The optimism surrounding the return of Bob Iger has now become the realism that the prior pace of production was untenable. Say what you will about the multiplicity of Marvel and Star Wars shows on Disney+, but combined with all the COVID-era movies, they were giving us a firehose of content. Now, with an unsustainable burn rate, the cutbacks in content have started to arrive.


6. Prime. (August: 5, November 6, 2022: 6)
So how is it that Prime stays at number 6 but is marked in red? Well, did you read the article? You know, THAT ARTICLE?

Ouch. The reason Prime can't go any further down is because I think it will always be the #1 P (Prime, Paramount, Peacock). But dang. It truly looks like they've been sending money like a drunken sailor, and all they have is a hangover to show for it. Rings of Power might not have been a flop, but to have 2/3 of the people who start it quit before finishing? To not only pay exorbitant amounts for Thursday Night Football, but also to have to give back money to the advertisers?

Heck, look at the upcoming programming. Are you excited to see Citadel? Do you even know what it is? Most streamers have some sort of identity, but Prime doesn't, unless that identity is, "The place where people will give you hundreds of millions of dollars for ideas that the other streamers passed on."

Given the Amazon business model, Prime isn't in any danger. But many of their projects seem a lot like they are just lighting Amazon's revenue on fire to see how fast it will burn.


7. Paramount+. (August: 6, November 7, 2022: 6).
The streamer of CBS, Star Trek, and Yellowstone spinoff series (but not Yellowstone) will continue to chug along, and, eventually, probably sell itself to another streamer. Enjoy the multiplicity of Star Trek shows while they last. I hear Picard season 3 was good!

8. Peacock. (August: 8, November 8, 2022: 7)
Comcast executive: We still exist, and will continue to do so. Anyone up for some OLYMPICS????
 

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MarkB

Legend
Is Prime's new-look interface a worldwide thing, or just UK-specific? It seems they try to shake things up every once in awhile, in particular to get rid of the "Free to Me" filter, which I think causes them physical pain due to its reduction in their opportunities to sell us new stuff.
 


Hex08

Hero
I find it difficult to rate Prime against the other services because Prime isn't just streaming, you actually get a bunch of stuff with it (whether or not you use it). As long as people love quick shipping and just happen to get other services with it then the customers are more sticky. It's the same reason your cell phone carrier wants you to have phones, tablets, watches, home internet, etc.; the more services you have with a company the less likely you are to leave.

If Disney+ didn't come with my cell phone plan I wouldn't have it. I love the Marvel and Star Wars stuff and it's all I watch other than the occasional Nat Geo documentary. If I didn't get it with my plan I would only sign up for the periodic free trial or pay for a month to binge and then cancel.

P+ is a must have for Star Trek, thank goodness my mother subscribes so I can watch it. Like Disney+, I would only sign up for the periodic free trial or pay for a month to binge and then cancel.

Netflix and Hulu are my go to services, partially out of habit but also because the libraries are big enough that I can always find something to watch.

The only thing currently playing on HBO Max that I care about is The Last of Us and I'm not going to pay for a subscription to watch one show. I will rely on my friend to watch it. Apple TV+ falls into the same category, Severance and For All Mankind are all I care about so I don't subscribe.

There are too many shows spread across too many services to try and keep up with, even including the stuff I like and am interested in. Work, TV/movies, gaming, reading and a social life is a lot to balance.
 
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Swap HBOmax and Netflix and the list is correct.
Nah. HBO Max doesn't even exist in most countries Netflix exists in, and HBO Max probably basically won't exist at all in 1-2 years given what Zaslav is going. And international audience are absolutely not interested in the trash-tier reality-TV that Zaslav believe is everything. That may well serve HBO Max well in the US, but if they continue down this path, their gains outside the US will totally vanish.
 


Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Amazon Prime is deeply mediocre, with a lot of crap surrounding the few gems and a huge problem with discovering what they do have available (Amazon's got a problem with their interfaces generally, so at least they're consistent). We get it on discount because we have a college student in the house and really just want it for effectively instant delivery.

If it wasn't for those two factors, we wouldn't subscribe, as much as I've enjoyed some of their shows (both Vox Machina and Rings of Power, come at me).

And I 100% agree about Apple TV+ (terrible name) becoming the new HBO. They don't have a lot of content, but every time I watch something, I'm always happy I did. They don't seem to have anything worse than a B on their service, which is definitely not something the other streaming services can say.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Nah. HBO Max doesn't even exist in most countries Netflix exists in, and HBO Max probably basically won't exist at all in 1-2 years given what Zaslav is going. And international audience are absolutely not interested in the trash-tier reality-TV that Zaslav believe is everything. That may well serve HBO Max well in the US, but if they continue down this path, their gains outside the US will totally vanish.
Probably right. However, for content and quality HBOMax is still king until it implodes.
 

MarkB

Legend
We do seem to be coming to the point of proliferation of streaming services at which any one of them tends not to have sufficient content to justify a continuous subscription.

I remain subscribed to Prime partly for the delivery services, Disney+ for the Star Wars and Marvel content (even between new shows there's plenty I'll happily re-watch) and Netflix more out of a sense of comfortable inertia than anything else.

Paramount+ and Apple TV+ are strictly in the category of occasional dips when new content is available.
 

Hex08

Hero
Now that many of the streaming services are realizing that they just can't spend tons of cash on content to boost subscriber numbers and profit matters I think it's only a matter of time before the number of services implodes. Personally, I can't wait.

Look at the CW. From what I understand, as a network, it was never profitable but it made money licensing their shows to Netflix. Then the decision was made to bring all of those shows in-house and stop licensing them and then the CW was really unprofitable and it started collapsing and it was sold off. They could have continued making money by licensing their content but chose not to. Sony has TONS of content but doesn't have a streaming service; I wonder why? The current deluge of streaming services is, hopefully, unsustainable.
 

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