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Over the past two years, the number of streaming video services has exploded, offering you more choices than ever when it comes to alternatives to traditional pay TV.
New options from some of the world’s biggest tech and entertainment companies are available now or will be soon.
For instance, you can subscribe to the new Criterion Channel service, which focuses on classic, foreign, and independent films. And Amazon has a new free, ad-supported service, IMDb TV, to complement its Amazon Prime subscription service.
In addition, we’ve recently seen the launch of two high-profile services, Apple TV+ from Apple and Disney’s new blockbuster service, Disney+. In May, we’ll see the debut of HBO Max, a new HBO-based service from AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia. You can read about the details below.
The new options will join all-you-can-eat monthly subscription services, such as Netflix, along with cable-TV-style packages from companies that include AT&T (AT&T TV Now), Dish (Sling TV), Hulu (Hulu + Live TV), Sony (PlayStation Vue), and Google (YouTube TV), that are designed to help you cut the cable cord.
Apple’s new streaming service, called Apple TV+, is now live. At just $5 per month, it’s the least expensive streaming service so far. It’s $2 per month cheaper than the new Disney+ service, and considerably less expensive than Netflix’s most popular Standard plan, which costs $13 per month. HBO Max will cost $15 per month when it debuts in May.
However, the amount of content right now is limited, because the service launched with just nine new originals, and unlike many other services, Apple lacks a robust catalog of shows.
Among the available shows are “The Morning Show,” about a talk show, starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell; “See,” a post-apocalypse drama starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard; “For All Mankind,” a series that imagines what would have happened if the global space race had never ended; and “Dickinson,” a coming-of-age story from the perspective of Emily Dickinson.
Shows to debut later include a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s series “Amazing Stories”; “Little Voice,” about an up-and-coming singer, from director J.J. Abrams and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles; “Servant,” a psychological thriller from director M. Night Shyamalan; and a series of documentaries from Oprah Winfrey.
Apple already owned a few original shows, including “Planet of the Apps” and James Cordon’s “Carpool Karaoke: The Series.”
Apple TV+ also has a subscription option, called Apple TV Channels, for Apple TV users. It makes it easy for them to subscribe to channels such as HBO and Showtime from a single app.
The company also offers a game-subscription service, called Apple Arcade, for about the same price.
Beyond content, perhaps the biggest news is that for the first time you don’t need an Apple TV device to get Apple content on your TV. In addition to being installed on Apple hardware, the Apple TV app, which provides access to Apple TV+, is also available on select Samsung smart TVs now and will come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony, and Vizio sets in the near future.
AT&T TV—basically a streaming version of the company’s DirecTV satellite offering—is now available in 10 markets: Orange County and Riverside, Calif.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Topeka and Wichita, Kan.; St. Louis and Springfield, Mo.; and Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Odessa, Texas.
Additional metro areas are expected to be added this year, with a national rollout in early 2020.
AT&T TV is a separate offering from the company’s DirecTV Now cable-style streaming service, which has been rebranded as AT&T TV Now.
Given the announced pricing—AT&T TV starts at $60 per month for cheapest plan with about 70 channels, but then jumps to $93 per month during the second year of a 24-month contract—it’s unlikely to have much appeal to those looking to save a lot of money compared with a traditional TV plan. AT&T TV Now costs $50 per month for about 45 channels.
Three additional step-up plans, with more channels, are also available, ranging from $65 to $80 per month during the first year. But you’ll pay as much as $135 per month during the second year of your contract. Some plans require that you pay a $20 activation fee and $8.50 extra each month to get regional sports networks. You can check out the plans and pricing—and see what local channels are available in your area—on the AT&T TV website.
Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, and Starz are included free for three months and will auto-renew at $48 per month if you don’t call to change or cancel.
Compared with the AT&T TV Now service, one big difference with AT&T TV is that you need to rent or buy an Android-based set-top box provided by AT&T. (With AT&T Now, it’s simply an app you access from a smart TV or third-party streaming player, such as Apple TV or Roku.) The system supports 4K videos where available and includes 500 hours of DVR storage. Recordings are saved for up to 90 days.
One set-top box is included free, but additional ones cost $10 per month, or $120 if you want to buy them outright. AT&T says that one box will support up to three streams at a time.
Based on information on the AT&T TV website, it appears that once you have the box, you should be able to use an app to stream content on a smartphone or tablet. The included AT&T TV remote has the Google Assistant voice-powered digital assistant built in, so you can search for shows, change channels, and get weather and news updates on your TV using voice commands.
AT&T has said that the reason it’s launching AT&T TV is that it can provide comprehensive pay-TV packages at a lower price than a regular satellite-TV service. That’s because it’s a streaming service that doesn’t require a satellite dish and can be self-installed, so the company doesn’t have to send technicians out.
AT&T TV is the latest in a growing number of TV options from the company. AT&T still offers the DirecTV satellite-TV service, as well as AT&T U-verse, an IP-based fiber-optic pay-TV service, though both continue to shed subscribers.
For cord cutters, it has the low-priced AT&T Watch service in addition to AT&T Now. And a new one, called HBO Max (see below) from its WarnerMedia division, is slated to launch early next year.
Discovery is teaming up with the BBC for a new subscription streaming service that Discovery says will launch by 2020. Under the 10-year licensing deal, the new Discovery-branded service will be the home for all of the BBC’s natural history programs, including “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet,” as well as new series developed by the two companies.
The new service, which doesn’t yet have a name, will also include BBC series that will leave Netflix once earlier deals expire, plus Discovery’s own natural history and documentary programming. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the service is likely to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per month.
Disney’s new Disney+ subscription streaming service is now live. At $7 per month (or $70 if paid annually), it’s among the least expensive new services, about $2 more per month more than Apple TV+. However, unlike Apple, Disney+ has a vast array of new original shows and movies, as well as a deep catalog of library titles.
Disney also seems to be taking aim at Netflix with a bundled plan that combines Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu for $13 per month.
Disney has a huge library of its own animated and live-action films and TV series. Some of that content is currently licensed to Netflix in a deal that ends next year.
Disney also owns all the “Star Wars” movies (via LucasFilms), as well as Marvel Studios, and Pixar. It also owns 20th Century Fox and National Geographic.
Disney+ will offer 10 original films and 25 original series, including three “Avengers” spinoffs, in its first year of operation.
Among the highlighted new original content is “The Mandalorian,” a Jon Favreau-directed series set in the “Star Wars” universe that cost an estimated $10 million for each of its 10 episodes.
The Disney+ app, which features individual tiles for each of the prominent Disney brands, is available on lots of devices, including LG and Samsung smart TVs, plus Android TVs and Roku TVs. You can also access the service from most streaming players, game consoles, Android and iOS smartphones, and via web browsers.
AT&T’s WarnerMedia division says its new HBO Max streaming service will launch in May 2020. The price will be $15 per month, the same as for HBO and HBO Now.
This could be a compelling option for many because the service will include the premium HBO service, a slate of new original programs, and titles from the Warner Bros. TV and film library. The service will also provide content from AT&T’s other properties, including Cartoon Network, CNN, DC Entertainment, TBS, The CW, TNT, and Turner Classic Movies.
For example, at launch the service will have the exclusive streaming rights to every episode of “Friends” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” It will also have new original movies from the producer Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon, and original series such as “Love Life” starring Anna Kendrick and “The Flight Attendant” starring Kaley Cuoco.
A recently announced deal will give HBO Max the exclusive domestic rights to all 12 seasons of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” through 2028.
AT&T, which acquired Time Warner last year, has been aggressive in offering new streaming services. In addition to the new HBO-plus service, the company and its subsidiaries now offer the cable-replacement service AT&T TV Now, HBO Now, AT&T Watch, and ESPN+, plus the recently launched DC Universe.
In addition, as we note above, the company is rolling out a new streaming version of its satellite-based DirecTV service. Called AT&T TV, it will be separate from the current AT&T TV Now streaming service and is designed to replicate the bigger programming bundle that customers currently get as part of a satellite package. Pricing is higher than AT&T TV Now but lower than a regular satellite TV subscription plan.
Some more details have emerged about a new streaming service from NBCUniversal that’s slated to hit the market in April 2020. Called Peacock, in a nod to NBC’s longtime mascot/logo, the service will initially be free and supported by ads, but a subscription service without ads is also in the works.
Among the programs that will appear are popular shows such as “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Cheers,” plus reboots of the sci-fi classic “Battlestar Galactica” and the sitcom “Punky Brewster.” Peacock will also show the revived comedy “A.P. Bio,” which played on NBC right before summer.
“The Office” will be available starting in 2021 after Netflix’s deal for it expires.
The company also said the service will have movies and programs from other NBCUniversal properties, including Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation.
It hasn’t disclosed many of the details of the service, including the price of an ad-free subscription. Earlier reports suggested that it could be offered free to those who subscribe to a traditional pay-TV service from Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal. For those who don’t, some reports said, the service would cost about $12 per month, but that hasn’t been confirmed by the company.
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