STREAMING WARS: Netflix, Crave, Disney – Let’s pause for a second, which of the major streaming networks in Canada is right for you?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This will be a two-part series, which will assess all of the major streaming platforms available in Canada and attempt to address this crucial question – which one is worth trying in 2021?


It’s been almost three years since I started this fun little experiment. It all started fairly simple – a quick look at the options available to consumers and who these services are best for.

Since then, the industry has exploded. We have more options available than ever before and the amount of content to consider is gargantuan.

Previously, you subscribed to Netflix and that was pretty much all you needed. This is no longer the case.

From the wide array of blockbuster shows on Disney + that expand the brand’s hugely popular movie franchises or Crave, which, despite its flaws and high price tag, is the only way to stream HBO content in Canada.

Thankfully, as Canadians we’ve also managed to dodge the bullet of yet more streaming services, at least for now as they continue to launch new services in the United States. Streaming platforms like Paramount + and HBO Max do not exist here, with these respective services choosing to license their original programming to those existing here, a huge boon to subscribers.

So, are you looking to try a new service or maybe switch to a new primary source of streaming content? Hope this quick guide will help you.

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

Amazon Prime Video has great content on its service, as well as a few hiccups. – Amazon

Amazon Prime Video is emerging as one of the graying veterans of space, having launched since 2016.

Prime Video is part of the Amazon Prime service bundle that includes Free Shipping, Amazon Music, and a plethora of others (some more valuable than others). There might even be some people who have Prime Video and don’t even know it.

There’s a ton of stuff available on Prime, from premium originals to legacy shows and movies that tend to switch between Netflix and Crave every few years.

There are a lot of shows and movies on Prime that I really love, like The Expanse, a sci-fi epic and one of my favorite right now, which is in its fifth season. Or: The Boys, a dark and bloody parody of comic book heroes that brilliantly satirizes the genre.

There are also a lot of things to come that are definitely on my radar, including a Lord of the Rings show which is already one of the most expensive shows ever made (not that money = quality, but still).

Amazon also recently bought MGM, the Hollywood studio behind 007, so it’s clear Amazon sees a future in this space for the long haul.

But, despite many great shows and movies available on Prime, there are also a lot of hiccups. A recent example that comes to mind is The Stand, a Paramount + Original and an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, which was so crass and uninteresting that I stopped watching after a few episodes. Or Greenland, a forgettable action game starring Gerard Butler on the end of the world.

Hunters, another high profile series starring Al Pacino also fell flat for me, despite some neat ideas and moving performances. But then there’s Fleabag, one of the brightest and most hilarious shows I’ve ever seen – the only thing I can say bad about it is I wish it was longer.

If anything, I’d say it’s hard to define what makes a Prime Original a Prime Original – there’s still a lot of spaghetti thrown at the wall and it just doesn’t stick. But, some of the best streaming shows and movies I’ve seen are on Prime, so it’s hard not to recommend at least giving it a try.

Still, Amazon Prime costs $ 7.99 per month or $ 79 for the year, so think carefully, especially if you don’t plan on using any of the service’s other perks.

And hey, those new salt shakers you’ve been eyeing in your basket will be arriving here a bit sooner.

Amazon also has the option of subscribing to channels for more content, but each has a monthly cost, so you’ll need to figure out if it’s worth it.

APPLE TV +

Apple TV + has slowly built up a catalog of pretty entertaining original shows and movies, but is that enough to justify the monthly subscription?  - Apple
Apple TV + has slowly built up a catalog of pretty entertaining original shows and movies, but is that enough to justify the monthly subscription? – Apple

Still relatively fresh in the streaming scene, Apple’s streaming service is probably the service I use the least – but when I decide to dip my toe into Apple’s catalog, I’m generally pleasantly surprised.

With shows like Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and For All Mankind gaining at least some buzz, there is some momentum, albeit at a fairly slow pace.

There’s hope for more interesting content on the horizon too, with a recent trailer for an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi classic, starring big names like Lee Pace (The Hobbit ) and Jared Harris (Chernobyl, Mad Men) and an even bigger budget. I can’t wait to see how they pull off this beloved series.

But is it enough to subscribe? It’s my constant struggle with Apple TV + – yes, there are good things, if not great things in there – but is it enough to justify $ 5.99 per month? I often get confused on this question when trying to do the entertainment costing in my head.

Sure, my free year after buying an iPhone was great, but when it came time to pay for the thing, I couldn’t help but think twice about unsubscribing because I couldn’t just couldn’t justify it.

One aspect that makes the outlook a little more palatable is a recent service package introduced by Apple, the somewhat convoluted Apple One. Apple One, which is tiered (which makes the name somewhat misleading) gives the option to bundle Apple Music, Apple TV +, Apple Arcade, and some iCloud storage for a monthly subscription, which is less than getting all of them. these services individually.

There are also family packages, which bring the price down further if you have enough people willing to accompany you.

The catch, of course, is that you kind of have to be a resident of Apple’s walled garden of devices and services.

Another awkward aspect of the Apple TV + experience is the app itself. The user interface (UI) seems to assume that you are using an Apple device even if you are using a Fire Stick or Roku, as it highlights elements available from other streaming services or movies and shows for rent. – even if these are limited depending on what you are watching.

For example, when you use Apple TV + on Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, it will highlight a variety of non-Apple TV + content for you to watch, but as soon as you click on it, you can’t because Amazon wants you to use its particular portals to this content. It’s a bit of a big complicated mess.

For those who aren’t necessarily the most tech-savvy, I can see this is a frustrating and shocking experience.

What’s at play here – the world’s biggest tech companies are playing chicken with each other trying to get you to switch to their hardware or services. Ultimately, the consumer suffers from poor design. It might not be as bad on a real (expensive) Apple TV, as you’re already on the mothership in a sense, but it clearly wasn’t designed for non-Apple hardware.

Apple, please just give us an app for the original Apple TV +.

Ah, but they have Ted Lasso, one of the best shows in years, so how can I stay mad?

WANT TO

Crave offers the best content available and one of the worst user interface experiences for streaming content.  - Bell Media
Crave offers the best content available and one of the worst user interface experiences for streaming content. – Bell Media

Ah, Crave. I have a love-hate relationship with Crave. Good old Canadian Crave.

I love it because it has a huge, deep library of amazing content – if you include the expensive Movies + HBO and STARZ add-ons. In fact, Crave basic isn’t really worth considering without HBO at least.

Here’s the thing, for Crave basic you’re already looking at $ 9.99 per month plus tax. With Movies + HBO, a pearl of $ 19.99 per month plus taxes. Add STARZ, because why not at this point, and you’re almost $ 26 per month plus tax. The breath.

It is a difficult pill to swallow.

Add to that Crave’s user interface is possibly the worst out there.

It will often forget a show I was watching and it will disappear from my streaming playlist, which is usually several clicks away. Sometimes it picks up a season of a show that I watched in the first episode for some reason. Sometimes I have to restart my streaming device just for Crave to work.

And one more thing – on most devices Crave achieves a resolution of 720p. Now I’m not a 4K tech fanatic by any means, but 720p? In 2021? We can do better. Shows and movies look a bit darker, more fuzzy on Crave. When you switch to a 4K show on Netflix or Disney, the difference is like day and night.

Crave is in serious need of an upgrade.

But, and this is a big but, Crave is easily one of my most used platforms week after week.

Crave + (which I will refer to Crave with its add-ons from now on) has RuPaul’s Drag Race and its various spin-offs including the excellent Canada’s Drag Race, the incredible HBO limited series like The Mare of Easttown, the HBO Max Original shows and movies like The Flight Attendant and Justice League by Zack Snyder with many more ongoing, Star Trek, classic movies, scripted and frenzied comedies like Friends.

I mean, it’s HBO.

Crave has also become the Canadian dumping ground, in a good way, for a lot of content that would otherwise have gone to a specialty US streaming service like Paramount +, HBO Max, and Peacock.

There’s also live content, a wide range of French-language shows via Super Ecran, original Canadian shows and movies, and just a huge pool of really, really, really good stuff.

Crave + is both my favorite streaming service and my least favorite streaming service in one. The pricing is approximate, yes, but if they could just update the interface a bit and make the experience less clunky, that would easily be my number one recommendation.

If you want the best of the best content, do yourself a favor. If you can’t stand low-res programming and a clunky user interface, wait.

My next column will be about Disney +, Netflix, and others like CBC Gem.


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