Apple’s $4.99 streaming service is here — how does it stack up against Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Disney?

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Apple’s streaming video service debuted Nov. 1, hoping to lure viewers with a low price ($4.99 a month) and big-name stars.

The tech giant is facing stiff competition from the likes of Netflix NFLX, -0.21%, which announced recently that it will offer all 180 “Seinfeld” episodes to viewers in 2021.

Cconsumers are already swimming in a sea of streaming options.

There’s Amazon Prime AMZN, +0.83% and Disney DIS, +2.18%, but wait — there’s also one from Hulu. Don’t forget HBO T, +1.20% either, which already has HBO Now and will unveil HBO Max next year, replete with “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” series.

And the list goes on.

So is the $4.99 plan from Apple AAPL, +2.84%  a lifeline for overwhelmed viewers, or just another bucket of water over the head?

That all depends on how much consumers want to pay and what they want to watch. Experts have found most families are willing to pay at most $50 a month for streaming services, typically paying for a maximum of three services.

MarketWatch caught up with one expert, B.J. Pichman, research manager at market research firm Comperemedia, to help wade through all the choices and consider their pros and cons.

Apple TV+

The pros: “The upside is going to be completely fresh and exclusive content,” Pichman said. Not only that, it will probably look pretty slick too, he said — “typical Apple high production values.” Big names like director Steven Spielberg and actors Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston have signed on for projects, he noted. The video service went live Nov. 1, while a gaming service for another $4.99 a month started Sept. 19.

The cons: There’s not really much of a back catalog of shows and movies to pick from — not yet at least.


The pros: “Hulu’s got a lot of content. They’ve got a pretty great back catalog of old television programs,” he said. That includes past hit shows like “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “30 Rock.” And it’s pretty quick to post current primetime programming. “For the cord cutter, they are not really missing out on any broadcast TV,” he said.

The cons: “Original programing is pretty sparse right now,” noting that original shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” are few and far between, in his view. And then there are the commercials that viewers have to watch on the basic plan, which could actually be a pro or a con. “If you don’t mind the commercials, it’s a very competitive price,” Pichman said.

Disney Plus

The pros: The Disney Plus offering will have everything from “Star Wars” to “Bambi.” “It’s really great for families with children,” Pichman said. The service will go live Nov. 12, replete with 7,500 episodes from various Disney shows and 500 movies — and that’s just the start, Pichman said. “They’ve got a lot of runway with those series to do a lot of spin-offs,” Pichman noted.

The cons: Disney has a lot of offer, that’s for sure. But it’s still just one service, Pichman noted. “They don’t have everything. It’s one house.”


The pros: Choice, choice, choices. There’s the catalog of Hollywood movies and televisions shows — soon to be filled with “Seinfeld” episodes — and all the original programming like “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror” and “Orange is the New Black.” “Netflix still has a lot of content,” and it’s pouring money into creating even more, Pichman said.

The cons: “Netflix is starting to look expensive in comparison,” Pichman said. While the Netflix basic plan is $8.99, the premium one is $15.99 a month. And some of the new programming coming out now leaves Pichman a little underwhelmed. “The content coming out now feels a little rushed,” he said.

Amazon Prime Video

The pros: “The fact you get it for free with Prime membership is fantastic,” said Pichman. And there’s also some good shows on there as well, he noted — that includes shows like “Transparent,” the “Jack Ryan” series, and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

The cons: “It feels like a benefit for Amazon Prime people that most people don’t know they have,” he said. There are certainly some hits on the programming, but there are misses too. “It feels random,” Pichman said of the array of shows and movies. And while $119-a-year Amazon Prime memberships have their perks, they aren’t for everyone.


The pros: It’s a clear leader in quality programming, Pichman said. The outlet has “huge well-known shows, arguably some of the best,” including TV icons like “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” and more recent hits like “Big Little Lies,” and “Succession.”

HBO Max, a separate service, will include “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Pretty Little Liars” and new Warner Bros.-produced shows. It will launch in the spring of 2020. AT&T’s T, +1.20%  WarnerMedia says the service will cost $15, the same price as HBO Now, but with “significantly more” shows and movies, the Hollywood Reporter reported.

The cons: The price tag. “Now with Disney Plus and Hulu and Apple +, HBO [Now] seems wildly expensive,” Pichman said.

Consumers have no shortage of choices — but certainly a shortage of time and energy. They’ll have to figure out what works for them. “I think attention span and time-wise, people will have hard time paying for more than three [services]” Pichman said, later adding, “It’s hard finding time to consume all that content.”

Apple shares have been up 60% this year compared to a 15% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.11%  and an 22% increase for the S&P 500 Index SPX, +0.97%  

This story was updated on Nov. 1, 2019.

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