There was a time, long ago, when the highlight of my day was turning on the TV to watch Spongebob Squarepants on the Nickelodeon channel. It was available via telecommunication service Starhub’s cable television network. Back then, this was the cool revolutionary thing as opposed to the regular TV channels that were rife with cringey shows. Fast forward to the present, and that too has been surpassed. “Cheaper” over-the-top (OTT) video streaming services such as Netflix have all but left cable TV in the dust.
As of 2016, nine out of 10 Singaporeans have been choosing OTT over standard and cable television services. Netflix projected it will have 264,000 subscribers by the year 2020. But will it achieve this now that newer streaming services like Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Go and Hulu going after a piece of the pie?
We dissect each streaming service by cost, content and audience to suss out the best deal.
Netflix’s subscription plans start from S$10.98 per month. It’s more expensive than Hulu (S$5.99), Amazon Prime ($8.99), Apple TV+ (S$6.98), and Disney+ (S$9.51). What’s more, S$11 gives only one available “screen” for viewing while S$3 less gives six on Apple TV+.
However, Netflix is still more affordable than HBO Go. The latter merely offers one subscription plan — and it has to be an added feature to your cable TV programme — at S$13.98 for a screen limit of three. I’d say add S$3 more and receive a screen limit of four on Netflix without being tied down by a separate cable TV contract.
Since Apple TV+ launched, it only has nine titles to offer, ranging from director Francis Lawrence’s See which features actor Jason Momoa to The Morning Show, a series inspired by journalist Brian Stelter’s book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.
On the other hand, despite having an array of shows on their platforms, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go are seemingly more dependent on Handmaid’s Tale, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and Westworld respectively.
For Netflix, after its ground-breaking Stranger Things series, things seemed to have turned a little bland and it didn’t help with the release of The I-Land and In the Tall Grass. However, recent times have seen filmmaker Ryan Murphy joining Netflix with The Politician and Martin Scorsese with The Irishman. This adds to its armoury of better quality shows like Unbelievable, 3%, Money Heist, and Netflix Originals film The King. All these put them ahead of the pile when it comes to content.
Nevertheless, it will be short lived once Disney+ launches in Singapore. Considering how it has a slew of established films from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and — after splashing $71 billion acquiring the rights to Fox and its content — all 30 seasons of The Simpsons at its disposal, Netflix is in for tough competition ahead.
Ask yourself this: what kind of entertainment are you most attracted to? It’s important because which streaming service works for you hinges on that. If rewatching films from the theatres is what you enjoy, then Disney+ makes the cut because from Avengers to Finding Dory to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it has them all. Point is, there are no non-Pixar/Marvel/Star Wars content (if you exclude The Simpsons) there.
Personally, Disney+ is out of the question for me because I’d prefer to pour my savings on a platform that gives me the freedom to choose films from wider themes and genres. Since Hulu can be subscribed as a bundle pack with Disney+ and HBO Go has to be part of cable television, that leaves Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.
Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime dangle a cheaper price carrot, which is fair given what they have to offer. But will that change when they get around to pumping up their content? For the moment, if you’re working out the costs against what you can get in terms of available content, Netflix still gives you a better deal. So it looks like Netflix might still achieve its projected growth, for now at least.