If ever there was a time to be grateful for the growth of streaming services, which let viewers choose from vast libraries of TV shows and movies to watch, it’s now. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when most of us were advised to stay close to home, turning to the TV for distraction and escape has never felt more necessary.
This year’s lockdown-minded holiday season may not bring the customary gatherings. But we can at least visit some old and new friends via our screens. Here are suggestions for gifts that can help you share entertainment and joy with loved ones, even if you can’t be together. Or maybe you’re just in the mood for more choices, and want to give yourself the gift of streaming.
Sure, Netflix is the big dog when it comes to streaming, with more than 195 million subscribers all over the world. But in its first year, the Disney Plus streaming service has wooed about 73 million subscribers. That impressive showing isn’t hard to understand. For one thing, the service smartly brought “Hamilton” to a streaming platform. For another, parents trying to juggle work and supervising remote learning for their children, found the kid-friendly choices on Disney Plus a refuge amid more adult-themed content on other services. And fans of the Marvel Universe, “Star Wars” movies and shows (including the current Season 2 of “The Mandalorian”), Pixar animated features, National Geographic series and more can pore through the extensive Disney Plus library.
Disney Plus is $6.99 a month, or $69.99 per year. For more choices, subscribers can get a bundle that includes Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, for $12.99 a month. Sign up at https://www.disneyplus.com/
Hulu and Hulu + Live TV
If you’ve run out of things to watch on Netflix, Hulu offers an alternative that combines original series, as well as many broadcast network shows, which you can view either shortly after they air, or live (that would be the Hulu + Live TV) option. Broadcast shows include “Grey’s Anatomy,” The Good Doctor,” and the unfortunately short-lived “Stumptown,” which was set in Portland, but filmed in Los Angeles. Hulu original series include “Shrill,” which is actually filmed in Portland, “Normal People” and the Emmy-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” just in case you’re not stressed out enough by 2020. Hulu is also the exclusive streaming home for FX on Hulu series, including “Mrs. America,” “A Teacher” and “Devs.”
Hulu is $5.99 per month (with ads); $11.99 per month (no ads); Hulu + Live TV is $54.99 per month (with ads) and $60.99 per month (no ads). Note: On Dec. 18, the price of the live TV plans will increase to $64.99 per month for Hulu + Live TV, and $70.99 per month for Hulu + Live TV (no ads). Sign up at https://signup.hulu.com/plans
The streaming service is home not just to shows from the HBO library, but also offers movies, original series and other shows from WarnerMedia Entertainment. That means subscribers can stream episodes of “Friends,” “Rick and Morty,” “Game of Thrones,” “Watchmen,” “Westworld,” “Chappelle’s Show,” “Key & Peele,” “Succession,” and originals including “The Flight Attendant,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion “Love Life,” “An American Pickle,” “Raised By Wolves,” and, coming Dec. 25, the blockbuster, “Wonder Woman 1984.”
HBO Max replaced HBO Now and HBO Go, and customers who had the HBO Now app can subscribe to HBO Max at no extra cost. If you already pay to subscribe to HBO via a cable, satellite or streaming service (for example, Hulu, DirecTV, Comcast), you also get access to HBO Max at no extra cost. You’ll need to download the HBO Max app and sign in through your TV, digital or mobile provider to begin streaming HBO Max. New subscribers can sign up at hbomax.com to get a free trial, then pay $14.99 per month, which will auto-renew until the subscriber cancels. Sign up at https://www.hbomax.com/
Apple TV Plus
The streaming service from the tech giant doesn’t have the enviable library of content offered by Disney Plus and some other rivals. But you’ll find a varied lineup on the service, including prestige dramas like “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon; “The Oprah Conversation,” featuring Oprah Winfrey interviewing such guests as former President Barack Obama; the comedy, “Ted Lasso”; original movies (Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks,” starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones); and more. Sometimes the content is more ambitious than riveting (“Defending Jacob,” for example, a drama starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery). But the price is reasonable: $4.99 per month. Sign up at https://tv.apple.com/
The NBCUniversal streaming service has another big library of titles to draw from, including such movies as “E.T.” and the “Jurassic Park” series, and TV shows including “Parks and Recreation,” “Downton Abbey,” “Saturday Night Live,” and the big hit, “Yellowstone.” Production delays caused by the pandemic have slowed down debuts of some of the planned original series that Peacock announced earlier. Fans of “The Office” will also have to wait until early 2021 to see the workplace comedy in its new streaming home on Peacock. For now, budget-minded types can enjoy the fact that the first Peacock tier is free; Peacock Premium, which includes more programs, is $4.99 per month; Peacock Premium Plus, which is mostly free of ads, is $9.99 per month. Some Comcast and Cox cable subscribers may also be able to watch Peacock Premium for free. Sign up at https://www.peacocktv.com/
Amazon Prime Video
Another relative veteran in the streaming world, Amazon Prime Video is a rich source for all sorts of movies and TV shows, from old to new. But if you haven’t yet jumped on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” bandwagon, or checked out “The Boys,” “Bosch,” “Fleabag,” “ZeroZeroZero,” and more, you’re missing out. Amazon Prime memberships cost $12.99 per month, or $119 per year. Prime Video membership is $8.99 per month. Sign up for a free trial at https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201910190
— Kristi Turnquist
firstname.lastname@example.org 503-221-8227 @Kristiturnquist
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