Amid rising energy bills, the announcement that Netflix will hike its prices – with its basic package increasing by £1 a month to £6.99 – seemed to pass without too much fuss. But, as the cost of living crisis hits, many households will be looking at which subscriptions to prioritise.
But with more of us subscribing to multiple streaming services (thanks, in part, to those spontaneous lockdown purchases) these extra costs have a habit of adding up – until you suddenly find yourself shelling out more than £50 a month on entertainment. All of which begs the obvious question: which streaming service gets you the most bang for your buck?
Interestingly enough, the filming location company Giggster just published its own comparison report into how the various streaming platforms do when it comes to value for money. In terms of releases from the past year and historical Oscar winners, they say that Netflix tops the table. But can Netflix retain its place over the next few months?
Box-set wise, the big new releases this season are the second helping of Natasha Lyonne's clever comedy Russian Doll as well as the last instalment of top rate crime drama Ozark (whose final season was split into two halves just to ramp up the tension). Both have been critical hits for Netflix, with fans unlikely to grudge paying that extra £1 a month to get up to speed with them.
From 18 April, there will also be new episodes of Better Call Saul, as the long-awaited swan song of the Breaking Bad universe finally gets underway. The current rumour tantalising the fanbase is that the show's final episodes will exit the prequel timeline and explore what becomes of Jimmy (or Gene, should we say) after the death of Walter White.
On the film front, Netflix scores less highly, with this season's big release looking like somewhat of a damp squib. Despite initial hype, Judd Apatow's latest comedy, The Bubble (about a squad of actors trying to make an action blockbuster during the height of Covid restrictions), has failed to impress the critics. Admittedly, following Don't Look Up wasn't going to be easy, but this looks to have fallen well short for Netflix.
So how does Amazon Prime, Netflix's biggest competitor in Britain, compare? With a monthly charge of £7.99 (or £79 for an annual subscription), Bezos’s offering has always been slightly pricier than its rival – with the extra cost justified (at least in theory) by free delivery on Amazon purchases.
Looking at this spring's schedule, though, UK subscribers may not feel so convinced – not least since a number of Amazon's big international releases have already been shown on the BBC. Claire Foy may have delivered a star turn in A Very British Scandal, but does it really count for ‘event television’ four months later? Ditto with Stephen Merchant’s The Outlaws, which you can already get on iPlayer.
Take those two away and what are you left with? Perhaps the biggest offering is Outer Range – a new Western series starring Josh Brolin. Judging by its slightly haunting trailer, it looks to follow in the mould of The Mare of Easttown. But will it be enough to justify that monthly fee? It's a tall order.
As for the other services, Disney+ (monthly cost £7.99) makes a serious power grab in the reality television market as it becomes the new home of the Kardashians, who return in their eponymous new show on 14 April. Elsewhere, Disney also has the second series of Kat Demmings’ Dollface and the critically-acclaimed Single Drunk Female.
Sky's Now TV (£9.99 per month for the entertainment package) doesn't exactly stand out, with headline releases including the third season of Das Boot and a biopic of Julia Childs. That said, its hyperactive crime drama Gangs of London (whose second season is pencilled for release this spring) looks to become a sleeper hit internationally – in spite of the ridiculous plot lines.
By contrast, Apple TV (just £4.99 a month) has a packed list, kicking off with Gary Oldman in new spy series Slow Horses. Based on a series of novels, it’s set in a fictional intelligence unit in which failing MI5 operatives are put out to pasture. The first two episodes premiered on 1 April, with new ones scheduled to air weekly.
Elsewhere Apple also has Tom Hiddelston and Clare Danes in an adaptation of Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent and Nicole Kidman in Roar – described as a series of interconnected feminist fables. Impressive stuff, but still nowhere near the star-billing of their next original film release, Killers of the Flower Moon – directed by Martin Scorcese himself and starring Leonard di Caprio and Jesse Plemons. You have a few months to wait though: with release scheduled for November.
Even with that wait, it's hard to see how Apple TV doesn’t have the edge when it comes to value for money in the coming months. Despite its price hike, Netflix scores well too – particularly when you factor in its vast archives. For Amazon, though, the picture is less impressive. Some may feel those extra perks make up for it but, as with the other streamers, it may find that, as bills rise, it has to fight a little harder to retain its audience.