Streaming Services: Power Rankings Summer 2023, and What's Up With Paramount+

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
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, instead of being able to talk about the content. So while you want to have a conversation about Captain Pike's piercing eyes or hot on-again, non-again romance of Spock and Chapel on Strange New Worlds, you instead end up discussing Paramount+. Or instead of being able to chat about the best show you're not watching, The Bear, you end up debating the merits of Hulu.

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 2022 is here.
The second post in November 2022 is here.
The year-end 2022 rankings are here.
The first 2023 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 just been to a really fancy food court with people approximating the accent of Maurice Chevalier.

As usual, the POWER RANKINGS are an excuse to talk about something in the news. As usual, we will be talking about HBO, um, HBOGo, um, HBONow ... er.... HBOMax.... MAX, yeah, that's the ticket. In addition, for the first ever, Paramount+ will be entering the chat for an extended appearance. Is that a good thing? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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. (2022: 1, Apr. 2023: 1)
A long time ago (really, it was 2013!), Reed Hastings, the visionary CEO of Netflix, said, "The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us." Well, while I don't want to anger the forces of irony, it's time to unfurl a "QUOTE ACCOMPLISHED" banner. Not only did Netflix become HBO before HBO became Netflix, Netflix actually outlasted HBO in the streaming era, until ... HBO is no longer even a named player.

There is a bloodbath going on in the streaming sphere, arguably marking an end to the golden era of content that we have gotten used to. Since I have begun these rankings, Netflix has been number 1. Now, it is number 1 and rising. With the rise of FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) and the large number of entrants and the rising cost of content, both because of the number of bidders and other factors (cost of production during COVID, for example), we see a simple truism today- Netflix is the only service consistently makes money, quarter after quarter, on streaming. And their investment in international, unlike the remainder of the mainly US-centric streamers, also allows them to continue pumping out content if Hollywood goes into full shutdown.

Is this a ratification of Netflix quality? Heck no. If anything, they have mastered the art of churning out low-cost engagement shows (aka, reality TV and the like) while sprinkling in enough "near-Prestige" TV and movies to keep it interesting. But they have a brand, a massive audience, a global reach, people watch it.

Will we see the advent of personalized "Snarf Is Awful," as predicted by Black Mirror? Will we see them continue to pump out titillating true-crime documentaries for people to gawk out, as parodied by Black Mirror? Will they continue to just subsidize Black Mirror to make fun of them? These are questions I can't answer. But I do know that as things shake out, Netflix continues to stand as the prescient winners. If you can only bet on one streamer surviving the current and upcoming bloodbath, it will be Netflix.

They are winning in revenue. They are winning in subscribers. They are winning in worldwide reach. They are winning in profits. Netflix is chugging Tiger Blood, and it doesn't look like they will stop #winning.


2. Disney+. (2022: 2, Apr. 2023: 5).
I am as shocked as you are! I thought about this one for VERY long time. D+ is not number 2 because they are in a good place- far from it. Instead, they are number 2 by default; the remaining services have other issues (as seen below).

Let's start with the negatives. D+ loses the parent company money. What once looked like an unending stream of hit content from Marvel now looks ... vulnerable. Heck, do you want to have an in-depth conversation about Secret Wars? I know I don't. The most interesting thing about the current phase of the MCU is whether or not they will need to recast their Big Bad. More importantly, they are cutting back costs on the content they are producing- so we will be seeing fewer prestige shows like Andor in the future. In short- the future looks rocky.

So why are they number 2? Well, they are DISNEY. That means that families with kids want it. And they also have an international reach already. They have a fairly massive library. Finally, this is pricing in two things- first, they will likely be purchasing Hulu in the near future, leading to tighter integration with the one area that they are truly lacking (more adult-oriented great content). Next, they own ESPN, which means they have the ability to pivot to offering live sports. Finally, because Zaslav ... sorry, the one who will not be named ... broke the ice with all the unpopular decisions on pulling shows, Disney was able to follow suit without taking the heat. Finally, with Iger back in charge and the change in the executive ranks, they have a long and proven track record of putting out popular content that people will want to see.

The losses aren't great. But of all the streamers other than Netflix, they look well-positioned to ride this out to the other side.


3. AppleTV+. (2022: 3, April 2023: 3)
Why is AppleTV+ so highly rated? Two reasons:
First, AppleTV+ isn't in the business of selling you content. They are in the business of selling you products. They are perfectly happy to subsidize AppleTV+. Would they like to make money on it at some point in the future? Sure. But they don't need to. They just need to ride things out.
Second, they are following the old HBO model. They don't put out a lot of content, but they try to make sure that everything they release is quality content. They have the Emmys and, yes, the Oscar (take that, Netflix!) to prove it. So unlike the next entry, they are building their library judiciously.


4. Prime. (2022: 6, April 2023: 6)
Last time we did a power ranking, we were all talking about the absolutely devastating article in the Hollywood Reporter. You know the one- detailing how the executives at Prime were basically taking trainloads of Bezos's money and lighting it on fire. That the most expensive acquisitions (cough Rings of Power) not only didn't drive subscribers to Prime, but also weren't even intriguing enough for people to finish watching the show. It was brutal. And don't get me started on Citadel. Basically, this service eats money and excretes terrible content.

Let's think about this- it's a service that puts out expensive and mediocre content. It has a terrible interface that means that many viewers (such as me) will never, ever open it unless we already know what we want to watch. It loses tons of money. So why is it ranked so highly?

Because it's not going to fail. It has the second-most subscribers world-wide behind Netflix. And people get it "for free" with their Prime subscription, that they use to have their $2 tchotchkes delivered to their doors in giant boxes. If they ever got their act together, they'd be a player. Until then .... until someone really starts paying attention to making Prime a real streaming service ....
on-the-waterfront-marlon-brando.gif



5. HBOMax (2022: 8, Apr 2023: 2)
Max has been jumping around a lot in the rankings. I'm going to make this really short-

What do they have going for them? Well, they have an amazing library. Seriously, one of the best. Assuming large chunks of it aren't removed. They are probably the only streamer that can regularly put out appointment television- sure, maybe The Idol flopped, but that was the shock. The HBO pipeline continues to pump out shows that people want to watch and talk about. And they have a fairly large subscriber base- it might be well behind Disney+, but it's well ahead of Paramount+ (and at a much higher price point). And, of course, it has the quality name of HBO.

Oh ... yeah. Not so much that, right?

Which brings us to the other other things. He Who Shall Not Be Named needs to replace his PR team, because whether it's the debacle at Cannes, or the debacle at Boston University, or the debacle with the credits for directors, or the debac.... well, let's just say that He only opens his mouth to change feet. And from the longer point of view, while the debt load has lessened somewhat, it is still massive and crippling and affects operations, and it is unclear if Max is simply being put into good financial shape for some type of sale.

More importantly, unlike Apple and Prime, and even unlike Disney+, Max doesn't get massive subsidies flowing in from other businesses.


6. Peacock. (2022: 7, Apr. 2023: 8)
I have nothing to say about Peacock. But Comcast will keep it afloat. And it has a few shows that people are fond of (such as Poker Face), and it has a popular tie-in with live sports. More importantly, with the Olympics coming up, and with the Olympics rights, we might see greater adoption of Peacock.


7. Paramount+. (2022: 6, Apr. 2023: 7).
If Paramount+ has the same ranking as it did last time, why do I consider it going down in the rankings? Well, because it is now below Peacock, and because I have removed one streamer (see below). Let's be clear- I think Paramount+ has some great content. Obviously, if you're a Star Trek fan such as me, Paramount+ is a must-have. They are also the home of Yellowstone spinoff series (but not Yellowstone, because Paramount signed some stupid rights deals before they launched the streaming service).

So what's the problem?

Well, everything. Paramount+ doesn't have some big company subsidizing the streamer. The streamer is losing money. The stock is tanking. They are removing original shows to save money. Their crdit rating has been downgraded. They are probably the streamer and entity most affected by the current writer's strike, and any additional Hollywood shutdown could prove devastating.

In short, Paramount was attempting to pivot from two businesses (movies and cable TV stations) to another (streaming). One (cable TV stations) is profitable, but clearly in fast decline. The other (movies) ... well, we all know what's going on there right now. At a minimum, the environment is choppy. And the place they have pivoted to has not turned out to be the land of milk, honey, and profit that was assumed.

For the sake of continued awesome Star Trek, I hope Paramount+ finds a way out of this, or, at a minimum, continues funding Star Trek shows.


REMOVED FROM THE BOARD UNTIL 2024: Hulu.
Sometime at the beginning of 2024, Comcast will likely sell its stake in Hulu to Disney. The announcement will most likely occur at some time this year. That means that Hulu will be fully integrated into Disney+.

So the only thing I'm going to say is this- if you haven't already watched it, watch The Bear.

Do it. Do it now. Watch The Bear. You'll thank me later.
 

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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Max has jumped way up in my opinion since they absorbed Discovery+. SO much more content for not a penny more, all of a sudden, in an impressive way. Shows I had forgotten about when I cut cable are suddenly back in a big way.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I hardly ever use Netflix these days. Disney and Paramount are where my genre stuff is (superheroes, star wars, star trek). Prime... hmmm. Do I watch that? I don't think I do! I must have watched something on it recently, surely?

Apple is the best for consistent quality. Enjoying Hijack at the moment. Problems with Apple is you have to wait around for shows--they don't have the quantity of the others.

HBO isn't over here so can't comment on that.

So I guess?

Apple (which surprises me)
Disney
Paramount
Netflix
Prime
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Channels I watch from most to least:

Netflix


Prime
Paramount +
Disney
Max
Apple (this can flow much higher, depending on the month and if I remember shows I haven't finished)
Hulu (I think I only watch The Bear)
Peacock - I don't have a sub to this.

In terms of content, I think Prime is slammed harder than it deserves......but really, there is no contest. We watch Netflix more than the others combined, most months.

Max makes me sad, as it was THE place for event tv. Now? It's fine.....but I don't think we even turn it on most months at this point.

Paramount +.....well, I hope they survive, as we do quite enjoy the Star Trek. Is there any other show on there?

Disney? Ugh......I really liked Loki and the very clever Wandavision. I even liked She Hulk because it didn't take itself seriously and utterly slammed the misogynists that make up comic fandom. But, I don't know.....Star Wars has really gone downhill. The MCU movies can't pull me back to the theater, and sometimes it is months before I am like "Oh, we can stream that now." I don't know that I've watched any recent Pixar movies. They really should be winning this for me. They have the franchises I most want (other than ST and the fantasy shows)...and yet, meh.

Apple has such good, good, good shows. There just aren't many of them. I'd be ok if we stopped paying for this one. We don't pay for Max or Hulu, and we wouldn't I don't think. I liked House of the Dragon, but I didn't feel compelled to watch it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Max has jumped way up in my opinion since they absorbed Discovery+. SO much more content for not a penny more, all of a sudden, in an impressive way. Shows I had forgotten about when I cut cable are suddenly back in a big way.

As much as most of us like to talk about the really good shows (please, watch The Bear if you haven't already!) and the genre shows that we all love, the simple fact of the matter is that TV, even streaming TV, wants you to spend ... time.

And what He Who Shall Not Be Named understands is that while the HBO part of max brings in money and attention and awards, it is all of those low-cost reality TV shows that keep up engagement, even if they're just in the background, for hours and hours and hours. People love to talk about White Lotus and Succession and House of the Dragon. But they will be perfectly happy having Naked and Afraid and Deadliest Catch on while they are going about their business.

This is also something Netflix knows well, which is why there are pumping out tons of this type of content, from Love is Blind and Selling Sunset to Is It Cake?
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
As much as most of us like to talk about the really good shows (please, watch The Bear if you haven't already!) and the genre shows that we all love, the simple fact of the matter is that TV, even streaming TV, wants you to spend ... time.

And what He Who Shall Not Be Named understands is that while the HBO part of max brings in money and attention and awards, it is all of those low-cost reality TV shows that keep up engagement, even if they're just in the background, for hours and hours and hours. People love to talk about White Lotus and Succession and House of the Dragon. But they will be perfectly happy having Naked and Afraid and Deadliest Catch on while they are going about their business.

This is also something Netflix knows well, which is why there are pumping out tons of this type of content, from Love is Blind and Selling Sunset to Is It Cake?
While I enjoy some Food Network and HGTV shows, I am more thinking Josh Gates' show Expedition Unknown. I quite enjoy that, and Josh Gates is a genuinely good guy. I get a lot more from a good Food or Home Improvement or Archeology episode than I do from an entire season of White Lotus.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Thank we watch Netflix the mist.

Disney sucks outside Star Wars, MCU and kids stuff. We don't care about MCU or kids stuff Ahsoke looks great may cancel after that.

Amazon fairly low quality for new stuff Bosch and The Boys were good. Good vintage content and some movies.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Prime over Max? This is instant fail.

Edit: Now that I have enjoyed my whiskey without tossing it across the room...

My list has largely remained the same. However, I feel a big sea change with Hulu rolling into D+ and Showtime into P+. Prime was low on my list and its about to bottom out with its last best show ending as we speak. I'll likely have something more to say in the Fall or winter. For now, im just here for the fights!
Go Ahead Fight GIF by moodman
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Prime over Max? This is instant fail.

Edit: Now that I have enjoyed my whiskey without tossing it across the room...

My list has largely remained the same. However, I feel a big sea change with Hulu rolling into D+ and Showtime into P+. Prime was low on my list and its about to bottom out with its last best show ending as we speak. I'll likely have something more to say in the Fall or winter. For now, im just here for the fights!
Go Ahead Fight GIF by moodman

Aimed at me? We don't have Max here there is another service which has parts of it.

We have a local one thats free has a bit of Sci fi on it eg Trek and Halo, Dr Who and some Britush shows we like (Taskmaster, Grand Designs).

More on it to watch than Disney + tbh.
 
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payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Aimed at me? We don't have Max here there is another service which has parts of it.

We have a local one rgats free gas a bit of Sci fi on it eg Trek and Halo, Dr Who and sone Britush shows we like (Taskmaster, Grand Designs).

More on it to watch than Disney + tbh.
No, it was at the OPs list. Despite my love for the OPs postings, this one rankled.
 

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