If Americans could only choose one streaming service, this is the one they’d choose (and psst: it makes a great Christmas present)

If Americans could only choose one streaming service, this is the one they’d choose (and psst: it makes a great Christmas present)

However, with many streaming platform options out there, it can be difficult to choose which platform to give (or even sign up for yourself).

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We live in the golden age of television. That said, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift that’s more personal than, say, cash or a gift card—but still leaves you with options—it might be smart to consider a streaming app subscription. But with so many streaming platform options out there, it can be hard to choose which one to give (or even sign up for yourself). So we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each of the five most popular platforms, according to a recent JD Power streaming pulse survey. Happy streaming!

If you had to choose just one: Netflix

Nearly 40% of Americans say that if they had to choose just one streaming service, they would choose Netflix. according to JD Power — making it the number one choice for streaming. The pros also rate Netflix highly: Reviewers at CNET say Netflix is ​​”still the best choice for streaming entertainment, period.”

I personally pay for the most expensive version of Netflix (I hate ads and prefer to have more streams available since I share my account with family and friends) and find it worth it for its easy navigation and large list of movies and series. The original content is also worthwhile – in 2021 Netflix won 44 Emmys, made history and collects more than the next two media companies combined. If you’re looking for something new to watch, Netflix should be your best bet,” writes CNET. Also, Crown Season 5 debuts this week (!!!!).

I also like that offline downloads are available because I hate flying and like to have more possible options to look at while traveling. Because it’s spectacular when it comes to streaming, we recommend Netflix as a great gift for someone looking for a frequently updated content library and ease of use across multiple devices.

Prices: between $7 and $20, depending on the plan you choose.

Benefits:

  • Offline download

  • Large library

  • Option to avoid advertising

  • Original programming

Cons:

  • Premium access is expensive

  • Cannot watch network programs while they are being broadcast

————————————————————————————————————Editor’s Pick for Original Content: Amazon Prime Video

US News 360 Reviews named Prime Video the most valuable streaming service and No. 2 overall in its rankings of the best on-demand streaming services in 2022. “Combined with other Prime benefits, it’s a great value for the price, and its strong original TV shows, which often appear at awards shows, help keep fans happy,” writes the reviewer. Which reminds me I really need to catch up on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

CNET says that “the tech and retail giant’s streaming arm is muscular in its own right with plenty of high-quality original series and movies, an impressive back catalog of older favorites (and B-movies you haven’t heard of), Yankees games on Fridays and NFL on Thursday evenings).” In addition to the aforementioned Mrs. Maisel, Amazon originals include The Lord of the Rings, The Boys, Fleabag, Good Omens, The Man in the High Castle, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and Mozart in the Jungle.

That said, the interface is… not great, and I can back up that claim as a long-time subscriber. The menu screen is crowded, and much of the featured content doesn’t necessarily come with a Prime Video subscription.

Prices: $8.99 for Prime Video membership only; $14.99 per month for Prime membership

Ppraise:

  • Great original content

  • Live Thursday Night Football, Yankees and WNBA games

  • Offline download available

  • Ability to rent or buy movies and TV shows (even very new ones)

  • Prime membership allows you to get extra value for your money

Cons:

  • Lost 3rd party content to other services (I really miss having HBO linked to my account)

  • Interface and user experience need work

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For the network reality and live TV lover: Hulu

It just lost NBC and Bravo content to Peacock, but Hulu remains the best of the top five platforms for people looking to keep up with network television. It also serves as a “great complement and counterpoint to Netflix,” writes CNET, “with a huge selection of popular shows from networks like ABC, Fox and FX that you can watch right after they air, in addition to a growing catalog with its own critically acclaimed original series.”

Hulu doesn’t have quite as much original content as its competitors, but in my opinion, what it does have is pretty good. If you haven’t seen Only Murders in the Building still, run, don’t walk. And who among us reality TV fans hasn’t enjoyed the new and improved Kardashians?

You also have the option of saving a few dollars if you and/or the gift recipient don’t mind ads. Additionally, you have the option to add Disney Plus for an additional $3/month, the Disney package that includes ESPN+ for $6/month, and the Live TV package for an additional $70 if you want to cut the cord entirely. All in all, Hulu offers a lot more choices when it comes to pricing and packaging than its competitors.

If you’re still not sure, Hulu also offers a 30-day free trial for new users.

Prices: $8-$15/month for the streaming service alone plus another $70 for Live TV

Benefits:

  • Access to more TV programs on the network after they have been broadcast

  • Affordable Live TV alternative for cord-cutting

  • Good original programming

  • Low-cost monthly basic plan

  • 30-day free trial

Cons:

  • Confusing layout and menus

  • Less original content than Prime and Netflix

————————————————————————————————————

For the kids, Disney dedicated, Marvel and Star Wars geeks: Disney+

Disney+ is a no-brainer if you’re trying to give a family-friendly gift. The House of Mouse’s content platform truly has something for everyone, with content from Disney (duh), Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. It has a solid selection of movies and TV shows (although it’s obviously very Disney-focused), is built on a solid enough platform, and has a fairly low subscription price.

The platform offers all Star Wars movies in 4K HDR (hence why I subscribed in the first place), Marvel movies, and most of the Disney and Pixar catalog. That said, the lineup is also padded with some… well… less than good stuff, like Lion King One and a Half (huh?) that really just looks like filler. “There’s still not quite as much content as we’d like,” writes TechRadar, “but what there is is enough to fill a few weeks of movie or TV show nights, especially if you’re a fan of Marvel Movies and Pixar movies .”

Still, if you’re looking for a family- and budget-friendly streaming option, Disney+ isn’t a bad call. Plus, it’s still relatively new compared to the competition, so there’s a good chance it can only get better from here.

Prices: $7.99/month for Disney+ only; $13.99/month for the Disney package; $19.99/month for the Disney bundle with Hulu (no ads)

Benefits:

  • Full Star Wars, Marvel, Disney library

  • Quality content for the whole family

  • Solid navigation platform

Cons:

  • Filling content

  • Could use more for adults

——————————————————————————————————————For the prestige TV fan: HBO Max

Truth be told, if I had to choose one of these platforms myself, HBOMax would probably be it for me. Why do you ask? Well, The White Lotus, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Sopranos, True Blood, House of the Dragons and Game of Thrones, for one. Not to mention the vast array of Max content — meaning original content created specifically for the HBOMax app that doesn’t appear on the premium cable network — including Hacks and The Sex Lives of College Girls. Let’s also face it: it’s hard to be fully present at the water cooler without watching the HBO show of the moment.

CNET praises HBO Max for its extensive catalog, but notes that it’s expensive. “It has since grown to more than 13,000 hours of selection that includes documentaries, reality shows, film franchises and animation.” Plans start at $10/month with ads and go up to $15. The ad-based plan does not allow 4K and offline downloads. Plus, if you already have an HBO subscription with your cable package, you can use that to log into the app and access all the Max content you wouldn’t otherwise be able to watch.

The interface is easy to navigate and search, but be aware if you’re using a Samsung TV (I’ve had to completely restart the app to prevent the app from crashing on a few occasions.)

Prices: $10-$15/month; free with HBO premium cable subscription

Benefits:

  • Gigantic content catalog that includes all HBO and Max programming

  • Clean, user-friendly interface

  • Offline download available

Cons:

  • Expensive

  • Cheaper tier loses benefits like offline downloads and 4K

The advice, recommendations or ratings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.

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