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STREAMING WARS: What’s the best service for you?

Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian in the flagship Disney Plus series set in the Star Wars universe. Disney Plus launched on Nov. 12.
Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian in the flagship Disney Plus series set in the Star Wars universe. Disney Plus launched on Nov. 12. - Disney Plus

We break down what’s out there, how much it costs, and what to check out on each platform

Editor's note: Streaming Wars is a new, bi-weekly column to keep you up-to-date on all the best shows streaming now.

‘Have you seen *blank?*’ has become our new shorthand for small talk, at least after the weather. 

Did you see The Crown? Did you see Game of Thrones? Did you see, did you see, did you see?

Streaming networks like Netflix, Crave and others have penetrated not only our entertainment consumption habits but also our day-to-day water cooler conversations. They’re now part of the culture. 

But now, in the era of ‘peak TV,’ streaming is exploding in another huge way, with a deluge of new services for consumers to consider. 

Deluge might seem like a strong word for a couple of new services to choose from, but when you consider the amount of content there is to watch, and the amount of money it would cost to subscribe to every provider out there, it adds up pretty quick. 

Apple

Apple and Disney, simply put two of the largest companies on Earth, have thrown their names into the lucrative streaming ring not even a month a part — although their offerings are quite different. 

Apple TV Plus, which launched on Nov. 1, has a relatively small batch of entirely original, splashy, big-budget shows, including The Morning Show (Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Anniston, Steve Carrell) about the apparently cut-throat world of a chipper morning TV program and the drama that happens behind the camera. 

Although reviews have been mixed, it’s clear Apple is throwing a lot of money at this new initiative. 

Apple is focusing exclusively (so far) on producing original, exclusive content for its service, and is placing it squarely within the tech giant’s walled garden of devices and software.

More shows — and big names — are on their way, with Apple promising more content every month. 

Apple TV Plus is $5.99 per month after a seven-day trial or you can get a year for free with the purchase of a new Apple TV, Mac computer, iPod touch, iPad or iPhone. 

Disney

Disney, which has recently completed its latest round of gobbling up more entertainment properties (the company’s more recent acquisition was 20th Century Fox) has unleashed its enormous back catalog of content through a new streaming service called Disney Plus. 

At $8.99 per month after a seven-day trial, Disney Plus will offer a plethora of content, new and old, on a wide array of devices. 

From Star Wars, to Marvel movies, Pixar to National Geographic, The Simpsons to new original programs, Disney is frankly showing off the spoils of the enormous media empire it’s been building over the last decade. It’s an embarrassment of riches, both steeped in nostalgia and glimmering with that 4K sheen. 

It’s just so much content — high-quality, well-known content. And it could eat into Netflix’s massive subscriber base, especially if people decide they can only afford one streaming service at a time. 

If the service has a flagship for its initial release, it’s likely The Mandalorian, a new episodic series set in the Star Wars universe. It’s not available all at once, so viewers will have to keep coming back week after week until the season finale on Dec. 27.   

According to a press release, Disney said the company had garnered over 10 million subscribers one day after the service launched.

Netflix

Apple and Disney are joining an already crowded streaming market — with longtime dominant player Netflix, Canada’s Crave and Amazon Prime TV among other more niche services (Crunchyroll, DAZN). 

Seemingly flanked on all sides, Netflix has the most to prove and the most to lose if it doesn’t continue to capture the imaginations and the eyeballs for its original shows and movies. 

There are some exciting projects on the horizon, like Scorsese film The Irishman launching Nov. 27 (The film also saw a limited release in theatres). The crime drama reunites Scorsese with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Dads everywhere are going to be really excited about this. 

And continuing to chase after that next-big-fantasy buzz, à la Game of Thrones, Netflix is hoping their adaptation of The Witcher (novels and video games), releasing on Dec. 20 with its gritty, dark take on a magical, medieval world will have viewers bingeing the series in droves — Henry Cavill’s questionable wig and all. 

But Netflix is vulnerable: their original series haven’t been quite as ‘you-have-to-watch-it’ as a few years ago when Netflix was the only major player. Think House of Cards (before it was super-duper problematic), early seasons of Orange Is the New Black, etc. 

They’ve been on a show-cancelling spree lately too, killing off interesting shows like Sense 8 and The OA, which were doing interesting things that found a niche but didn’t capture massive audiences.

With the fresh batch of new services to consider, I’m sure many are wondering if Netflix’s offering is enough to continue to pay their monthly tithe, especially as major U.S. networks like NBC ready to launch their own services stateside. The Office, still reportedly Netflix’s most-watched program, will leave the service in 2021. 

With all of that in mind , here are how each of the major streaming services in Canada shake out. 

The major streaming platforms in Canada 

Apple TV Plus

Pricing: $5.99 per month, or free for a year with the purchase of a new Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac computer. 7-day free trial

Compatible devices: iOS devices, Apple TV, MacOS, web browsers, certain smart TVs in the near future.

Notable programming: The Morning Show, See, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Oprah’s Book Club.

Recommended internet speed: 25 megabytes per second for 4K streaming. 

What makes it different: Apple is investing heavily in splashy, original shows with big names tied to the project — but it’s going to take some time before that catalog fills out. Tying in a year of Apple TV Plus with the purchase of a new device makes it seem like a bonus for buying Apple hardware, rather than something necessarily worth running out to get on its own, at least for now.

Who should get it: If you recently bought a new iPhone or another Apple device, why not give it a shot? 

Disney Plus

Pricing: $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year. 7-day free trial. 

Compatible devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, some Smart TVs, Roku, web browsers, Android and iOS devices, PS4 and Xbox One. (WEB ONLY)

Notable programming: The Mandalorian, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, The Simpsons, Avengers: Endgame, Noelle.

Recommended internet speed: 10 megabytes per second minimum 

What makes it different: An enormous back catalog of Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox content

Who should get it: Families with young kids, Super hero fans, Anyone who still quotes The Simpsons regularly.

Netflix

Pricing: $9.99 per month (basic package, one device at a time, HD streaming), $13.99 per month (standard package, two devices at a time, HD streaming) and $16.99 per month (premium plan, four devices at a time, HD and 4K streaming). 30-day free trial.  

Compatible devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, some Smart TVs, Roku, web browsers, Android and iOS devices, some cable set-top boxes, some connected Blu-ray players or home theatre systems, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, PS3 and Xbox 360. (WEB ONLY)

Notable programming: Stranger Things, Queer Eye, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Riverdale, Roma.

Recommended internet speed: 5 megabytes per second minimum. 

What makes it different: Netflix has been in the game for the longest and has a huge back catalog of original award-winning shows and movies. They also have an impressive (albeit diminishing) library of content from third part providers like NBC. The question will be if the streaming giant can stay on top of the ever-growing competition. 

Who should get it: Lets be honest, you probably have it already. There’s pretty much something for everybody from comedies to classic movies. 

Amazon Prime Video

Pricing: A component of Amazon Prime, $7.99 per month. Prime Student membership $39.99 per year. 30-day free trial.  

Compatible devices: Some smart TVs, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire Tablet, iOS and Android devices, PS4, Xbox One, Some connected Blu-ray players and home theatre systems, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Roku, Apple TV.  

Notable programming: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Carnival Row, Good Omens, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. 

Recommended internet speed: 5 megabytes per second minimum.

What makes it different: Amazon Prime Video is part of a larger eco-system of services including free two-day shipping from amazon.ca, streaming music via Prime Music, eBooks via Prime Reading and more.  

Who should get it: People who really want free two-day shipping. Also Lord of the Rings fans, with a new series based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s books expected to come out soon. 

Crave: 

Pricing: $9.99 per month or $99.90 a year (basic package). Movies + HBO add-on $9.99 per month or $99.90 a year on top of basic package. Starz add-on $5.99 per month or $59.90 a year on top of basic package. 7-day free trial. 

Compatible devices: Certain set-top boxes, web browsers, iOS devices, Apple TV, Android devices, Amazon Firestick, certain smart TVs, Chromecast and Xbox One. 

Notable programming: Letterkenny, Star Trek Discovery, The Handmaid’s Tale, Twin Peaks. HBO add-on, brings Game of Thrones, Watchmen, Chernobyl and more. 

Recommended internet speed: 5 megabytes per second minimum. 

What makes it different: Crave is currently the only way to stream HBO content in Canada, although that comes at a pricey premium. It also has live broadcasts for certain programs/channels — like having cable all over again. 

Who should get it: HBO fanatics who can’t wait to be disappointed by Game of Thrones again, Trekkies, and movie lovers. 

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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