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A Nerd’s Guide to Streaming Services in 2021

If you’re like me, you enjoy Christmas TV shows and movies, but the day after Christmas, you’re done. When I realized our family’s top seven Christmas films weren’t on Netflix, I reconsidered my subscription and got thinking about what streaming services offer. What’s one to do with the other 9-ish months of the year with movies and television shows? What does the rest of 2021 look like for nerds with streaming services? What makes them all different?

Well, do you prefer original programming, or licensed properties, or a combo of both? My two biggest surprises from 2020 were Disney+ and HBO Max. Back in 2017, I was frustrated hearing about how many studios were planning to start their own services (i.e. leave Netflix). I still believe we don’t need 100 streaming services, but because of their ownership or distribution contracts, both Disney and HBO have large and ever-growing properties.

It wasn’t until Disney announced they would have practically all of their own properties along with Star Wars, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox properties that I became interested. I’m against global domination when it comes to entertainment, but with exclusives like The Mandalorian, it’s really hard to say no. Even with a subscription shortly increasing to $7.99, and having new Marvel shows like WandaVision and Loki tying seamlessly into the next phase of the Marvel films, Disney+ makes a lot of sense for 2021. Although it is reported that 20th Century Fox properties like The King’s Man and Free Guy may hit theaters and Disney+ simultaneously.

If you didn’t watch the Disney Investor Day last year, it signaled to Star Wars fans that they will have much to look forward to on Disney+ over the next few years.

When HBO debuted their streaming service (as HBO Go) in 2010, I wasn’t impressed. But now HBO Max has tons of licensed content and will have 60 originals by the end of  2021. With the upcoming release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League and all 17 Warner Bros. 2021 films (including Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, and The Matrix 4) releasing directly to the app, dipping into a subscription throughout the year could give you a lot of semi-inexpensive content ($14.99, with tiers coming soon). Additionally, full franchises like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Batman, and Alien are available, and because of the DC Universe’s implosion, shows like Titans, Young Justice, and Doom Patrol are not only on HBO Max but also renewed for new seasons.

What about other platforms? Amazon Prime Video has become a staple of our household because of their slate of 2021 properties (including the new LOTR show!), but the current $8.99 just for streaming ($12.99 for all the bells and whistles) seems a bit steep. I’ve always liked Hulu’s staggered pricing (starting at $5.99), and their 2021 nerd properties seem promising, like a live-action Y: The Last Man and the new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But without more licensed programming, you may want to only dip in occasionally. Apple TV+ only has original programming so, while Dickinson and Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet look good, it’s not enough for me to pay the current $4.99.

Family (Friendly) Feud

What about nerd content for the whole family? Hulu has the widest varieties, Disney+ has the most kid-friendly content, Netflix has most exclusives, Prime wins at sheer volume, and HBO Max provides the biggest mix of classic and new programming.

I’ve left Hulu a few times, but I keep coming back because our whole family finds something and it’s given us chances to show our kids our childhood favorites like Family Matters and Star Trek, while enjoying new content like The Goldbergs and Bob’s Burgers. Because Disney owns Hulu, you can bundle Hulu and Disney+ for $12.99 a month, which is probably the best bang for your buck considering, by my count, Disney+ has 1,032 total entities (regardless of rating)! It is certainly the most kid-friendly as a whole out of all the streaming services, but considering Apple TV only has 17 properties rated out of 30 total as appropriate for 2- to 12-year-olds, so you’ve got much better odds with Disney and/or Hulu.

Streaming platforms are now experimenting with price models for movies planned as theatrical releases. While HBO Max is including them among other content at no extra charge, Disney+ is currently charging $30 for movies like Onward and Raya: The Last Dragon.

Netflix has good parental controls and sends emails of what your kids watched for the week. There are currently 302 movies or shows under their family category, although a significant amount are holiday themed. Netflix does have exclusive content like The Dragon Prince, Trollhunters, Trolls, How to Train Your Dragon, and Pokémon, but they rarely have the complete original franchises or shows.

That leaves us with Prime and HBO Max. By my calculations, Prime has over 2,500 “kids and family” titles, but the vast majority are geared for very young children. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, but they also put no budget into family original programming, though they bring in a decent amount of other properties monthly. Amazon shines with rental availability, but you don’t need a Prime subscription for that. HBO Max has 630 “family” categorized properties, but a bit of that includes stuff like The Big Bang Theory, Austin Powers, and Key and Peele, which many adults may like but are far from family friendly. Still, their massive DC superhero library, and Sesame Street and Looney Toons archives, are pretty impressive. And they’ve committed to bringing on a lot more family programming with Cartoon Network as the cornerstone. 

Media Mindfulness

In the end, the entertainment you’re looking for and the prices you’re willing to pay are completely determined by you. But a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Research the differences. For example, platforms like Disney+ and HBO Max release shows week by week as opposed to Netflix and Prime’s all-at-once models.
  • Watch for property expiration dates. Netflix just lost The Office after several years, and the Back to the Future trilogy was only on the platform for 7 months.
  • Explore the weird deals that exist. Although CBS All-Access (which just became “Paramount+”) owns Star Trek: Picard, Prime actually streams the show internationally.
  • Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to cancel services you aren’t using. If you are like me, you are not made of money and have a limited budget for streaming services. The great thing about streaming right now is the plethora of options. You’ll certainly want to see which you like best, just don’t forget to cancel the ones you are not using because it adds up quick.
  • If you are a parent, bookmark pages like IMDB and Common Sense Media. Both sites have a plethora of detailed reviews of movies and shows to help you determine what shows are appropriate for your children.
  • You have limited time, don’t waste it watching crummy shows. Sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes aggregate the review scores by both fans and critics to help you see the bigger picture of what is worth your time.
  • Ask around. Nerdy shows are so much more fun and engaging when you have other nerdy friends to talk about them with. So join the Love Thy Nerd Community on Facebook or join Love Thy Nerd’s Discord server.

Chris is an assistant pastor in Southern California, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He also writes and works in manufacturing procurement. He loves film, TV, time travel, and the British—which means naturally, he identifies as a Whovian. His passion is connecting Jesus and the Bible to pop culture, since he believes this is how the majority of modern society relates to life. You can find his social media and more at chrisfogle.com.

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