Review: A Glimpse into the Reinvention of Cable: One of These is Not Like the Other

Aubrianna Martinez, Reporter

As entertainment reporters covered the aptly titled “streaming wars” over the course of the last few years, audiences have noticed clear frontrunners in the race to be the most subscribable streaming service. Fandom Entertainment’s Screen Junkies Universe panelists have said time and again, as people mix and bundle streaming services soon a new version of cable will arrive where people will purchase bundles of various streaming services combined. Currently, however, certain platforms rise in revenue and others quickly are forgotten. For their own reasons, the Apple TV+, Peacock, and HBO Max are standouts in their field.

Ranked lowest in streaming wars perhaps is Apple TV+, a service I have repeatedly botched the name of because I think about it so little, and rarely see promotional material to correct me. This service is something of an enigma; it costs $4.99 a month but is available free for a year to customers who have purchased one of the company’s devices, but not everything on the platform is free to watch immediately, requiring an additional purchase. According to the Apple website, they have planned for “new Apple Originals added every month”, and while most of these Apple Originals have interesting synopses, apart from the occasional reference to “Ted Lasso”, there don’t seem to be many breakouts that send people diving to input their credit card information.

Perhaps the strangest streaming service still accessible is Peacock, created by NBC. Peacock is unique in that it offers a free tier to subscribers to watch certain seasons of a series or film, while still offering two other nearly identical tiers that require payment that unlocks their original media as well as other titles the platform acquired. Peacock Premium costs $4.99, contains ads, and provides full access to series’, while their Peacock Premium Plus plan costs $9.99 has all of the previous tier’s access and doesn’t have ads. Peacock’s free tier doesn’t make it easy for anyone seeking to binge a series; in order to watch specific or past seasons of shows, requires buying Peacock Premium as the service hides many of its larger titles such as the Harry Potter films behind a more expensive tier.

HBO Max offers a strong incentive for subscribers amidst the pandemic, as new movies drop onto the site concurrently with theater releases. This provides people who pay $14.99 a month with the ability to watch new movies from home for no extra cost—if paying for HBO already, congrats! You already have free access to the streaming service—unlike the model Disney+ attempted with the premiere release of the live-action Mulan, which required purchasing the movie on top of the monthly payment for the service. HBO Max has listed on their website the films they plan on releasing this way during the pandemic, the small print being that the films will only be available on the site for thirty-one days. The first movie to experience this treatment was Wonder Woman: 1984, which has since expired past its time on the platform, and the latest January release of The Little Things came out on January 29th is still available to watch. Besides the exciting releases scheduled for the platform, HBO Max offers an abundance of prestige television, classic films, various types of products released under different studios that WarnerMedia has acquired, and the intriguing series’ created by and solely for the streaming service.

As each streaming service grapples for purchase in the streaming wars, desperate to brand themselves as unique and worth the money they charge, behemoths such as Netflix and Disney+ have their work cut out for them. This leaves the less conventionally oriented services such as Apple TV+, Peacock, and HBO Max to define themselves elseways.