The streaming landscape just isn’t the same as it used to be, with Disney+, Amazon Prime, and others vying for people’s attention and wallets with their own high-quality, exclusive content. As a result, Netflix’s own value for money has come under increased scrutiny as it has shifted away from curating externally-produced films and TV to an emphasis on its own content.
To combat this, the service has announced an ad-supported package to tempt subscribers back, launching in 2023. There’s no confirmation yet on exact pricing but reports suggest it could be around the £6 mark. Netflix’s standard pricing options start from their basic standard definition package at £6.99 per month. Their HD package is £10.99 while their top-quality 4K subscription is £15.99. Though details are thin on the ground, some snippets about the new package have dropped, notably that the new package will not allow users to download movies and shows for offline viewing. It’s a potentially risky strategy, though consumers may reason that the trade off is ultimately worth it for cheap access to Netflix’s library.
As the streaming giant has grown, the quality and range of its content has come under sustained fire and 4K content is only available at the highest tier compared to coming as standard with some other services. Netflix’s notorious algorithm, which priorities its own recommended content, has also been criticised. It comes as little surprise, then, that many have concluded the service is simply no longer worth it. However, for those that aren’t quite ready to give up their Stranger Things fix, there are a few ways to justify keeping the streamer on for a while yet.
A lot of users don’t realise that you can delete your Netflix history, which will reset the algorithm, meaning that those annoying recommendations are reset, too. Another common complaint is that it’s impossible to find films that are older than a few years, and that the categories are often confusing or nonsensical. There’s a way round that, too, by unlocking Netflix categories with hidden codes through the search function. Consumers might still conclude that Netflix still isn’t worth it. If that’s the case, there are a huge range of options. Let’s break down a few:
Amazon Prime has a huge catalogue of around 24,000 films and 2,100 TV shows. The basic package starts at £5.99 per month for just the video service, while Amazon Prime, at £8.99, includes one their day-delivery service and music streaming. Additionally, extra ‘channels’ can be added for more specialist content, such as the horror-oriented Shudder or Arrow Video services. Users can also pay for an annual package for £95, which works out at better value in the long run.
Disney+ focuses on content under the Disney umbrella, but with its acquisitions of other studios there’s quite an extensive range from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as a bunch of films and TV from Fox, ranging from classic X-Files episodes to the acclaimed Predator prequel, Prey, adding up to more than 500 films and 15,000 episodes of TV and Disney+ originals. £7.99 a month gets you access to all their content including 4K and HDR streaming on some shows and films. Alternatively, an annual subscription will set you back £79.90, and both options allow streaming on up to four separate devices.
Apple TV+ offers one of the cheapest options around for £4.99 per month after a 7-day free trial, or a month free if you go for the Apple One bundle, which costs £14.95 for an individual package and includes Apple’s music, arcade and cloud services as well as the TV package. Although its range of content isn’t as wide as Amazon or Netflix with only around 113 shows and films as of March this year, the service offers high budget entertainment that you can’t access anywhere else, such as Servant – a horror series by auteur M Night Shyamalan – and the 2021 Oscar winner CODA.
Paramount+ is among the newest services vying for our attention and caused much consternation when it launched in the UK earlier this year among Star Trek fans when the hit series Discovery migrated from Netflix to Paramount’s service. As with Netflix, a subscription costs £6.99 per month or £69.90 for the year, and gets you access to flagship content like the latest Star Trek series, the videogame adaptation Halo and the Kevin Costner Western series Yellowstone. There’s a growing library of good content, adding up to over 2,500 movies and 30,000 episodes of TV.
Elsewhere, cineastes are perhaps more likely to enjoy boutique services such as MUBI and BFI Player, which offer a broad range curated world and art cinema. MUBI adds a new film every day for £10.99 per month or £15.99 for their MUBI GO service, which includes a cinema ticket per month (remember those?). Meanwhile, the extensive BFI library offers a range of free, pay on-demand and monthly subscriptions starting at £4.99 monthly / £49 annual. Furthermore, services such as Shudder and Screambox have made names for themselves as exclusively horror-based platforms, suggesting that the winds of change may well be with smaller, specialist providers.
Finally, let’s not forget the brilliant, free-to-use UK-based services BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV Hub andMy5. IPlayer can be used by anyone who pays the license fee, while the rest are supported by ads and are free to access. All the services offer brilliant content – just check out All 4’s huge library of boxsets, the world-leading BBC documentaries or the blockbuster dramas for which ITV is known.
In the end, it’s up to the consumer to decide what is worth it, but there is no shortage of options both in terms of features, content and pricing. While the publicly-owned UK platforms offer amazing content at no cost, while specialist services such as MUBI and BFI Player cater to genre hounds and cinephiles. Most services offer crisp 4K and vibrant HDR, with Disney+ and Amazon being notable for offering it as standard on some content. Where Netflix and Amazon Prime have historically offered a broad range of content, newer services such as Disney+, Apple TV+, and the recently launched Paramount+ have shifted the focus to exclusive films and TV shows, often produced in house. This suggests we will see the rise of smaller, specialist services in coming years, compared to the one-stop monolith services of the last decade.