It All Started With Netflix
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been subscribing to Netflix since 2012 and I distinctly remember my wife’s son suggesting that we give it a try, at which I was a tad sceptical. Up until then, we had been watching cable TV, but of course, being in Argentina, the English-speaking choices were limited so we often fell back on old DVDs and whatever I could run through an ancient PC connected to the TV. Fast forward to June 2018 for the football (soccer) World Cup, when we bought our first smart TV and our viewing habits changed forever. Since then, we got rid of cable TV and our main source of viewing had been Netflix, but over time streaming services became more competitive with other major brands entering the market. It was really only a matter of time and for most of us, we welcomed the competition.
I would add that my mini-reviews are based on browser viewing from a new PC connected to the Smart TV with a direct network cable connected to the modem/router. I find this method is much more responsive than WiFi and using the LG TV apps which are generally pretty awful.
With 3,600+ movies and more than 1,800 TV shows available to subscribers, Netflix is one of the world’s most popular streaming services, or so the blurb goes and it’s true that Netflix offers more content than you could ever watch in several lifetimes. From quality shows like The Crown and Breaking Bad to everything else, catering to all tastes. It also introduced foreign language TV to the mainstream, such as Borgen from Denmark which would never have happened without the streaming revolution. The service is also very easy to use, it’s very responsive and also has a ton of 4K content. I only have one criticism of Netflix – its annoying habit of beginning a show immediately when you select it on a Smart TV when all you want to do is find out more about it. That aside, one can’t really fault Netflix, but in some other areas, it certainly isn’t the very best on the market.
Prime Video (Amazon Prime)
Prime Video has roughly 24,000 movies and over 2,100 shows to choose from, according to its publicity blurb, and we’ve been watching Prime for a couple of years now. Frankly, there isn’t a lot I can say about Prime that makes it stand out from the competition. It does what it says on the can and it’s so deeply interwoven with Amazon that clearly the intention is to tempt viewers to also dive into the Amazon marketplace to spend, spend, spend. The interface is crowded, but it does show reviews along with a feature called X-Ray which lets you know more about the actors on-screen. It’s not quite as responsive as Netflix but delivers what you want with little in the way of errors or delays. One other aspect to take into account is that not everything on view is free and you will be tempted to rent a show that may be free somewhere else. Or it may be free in one region but not another. Don’t you just love copyright?
Paramount Plus offers between 580+ movies and more than 450 TV shows, again, according to the online blurb. But the reason I subscribed to Paramount Plus is that our local Amazon equivalent, Mercadolibre, is running a special offer which I snapped up for around $1 per month in local currency. Added to this, it streams some excellent content such as Yellowstone and other Showtime exclusives. Generally, I’m very pleased with Paramount Plus because it’s responsive and has some really top-notch content. However, it does come across as a work in progress because there is no next episode or skip intro hints, or any 4K content whatsoever, at least where I live. But due to the high-quality content, one can put up with those little foibles, especially for one dollar per month! As a side note, Paramount Plus has only recently launched in the UK and surprisingly with no 4K content at all. Oh and strangely enough, a Paramount Plus app isn’t available as an app on our LG smart TV because we bought it in 2018, and is considered too old. Go figure!
With 2,000+ movies and more than 580 TV shows, I also snapped this up for around $2 per month, which is a steal and perhaps one of the few economic advantages of living in a third-world country. It’s immediately apparent that HBO MAX is a case of quality over quantity and it does that in spades. With shows like Game Of Thrones, Westworld, and The Wire, none of which I have yet watched. HBO MAX, in my opinion, beats all the others on quality, hands down. Not only that but the responsiveness and quality of the service are the most impressive of all the streamers here. 4K is available, next episode and skip intro are there, and the interface is simple and inviting. As a test, I ran HBO MAX through the TV app and then through Google Chrome via the PC with the latter being the winner for speed, hands down. That doesn’t say much for smart TV apps, that’s for sure.
This one is a little tricky because the BBC is a state-owned broadcasting service that can only be viewed inside the UK with a current television license which costs around $200 per annum. To give you an example, my brother who lives in the UK, pays his license fee every year, but when he stays at his house in France he is not allowed to watch BBC shows due to so-called copyright issues and the fact that he’s not sitting in his UK living room, so he has to resort to using a VPN. That’s an argument for another time, but for the purpose of this article, all I can say is that typically the quality of BBC shows is excellent, very British, as you would expect and there is a vast amount of choice from both TV and radio.
And the winner is…
Without a shadow of a doubt, the winner for me is HBO MAX for quality of content, ease of use, and responsiveness. You open your browser, hit the HBO link, then click continue watching, and within seconds you’re catching up with your favourite show. It’s an impressive feat, obvious that the techs at HBO have invested a lot of time getting it right and it’s paid off.