Sunday, December 2, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #138: It's beginning to look a lot like...

Finally time to eliminate Filmstruck from the ratings (or IS it? See #10). Speaking of which, Warner Media announced its big monolith of an OTT service is coming the end of 2019, and it will feature 3 tiers. I'm sure the most interesting tier will be overpriced and understocked.

Or am I too cynical? Maybe I should get into the holiday spirit and be positive! Therefore the rankings this week will be filled with ho-ho-hoptimism.

1) The Roku Channel: The jaw-dropping catalog addition of the year puts Roku's in-house channel at the top. I don't know why the heck the 1960s Batman is here instead of the new DC Universe streaming service, but I will take all 3 seasons of the classic series, even if it is ad-supported.

I notice that the episodes have the FilmRise logo at the beginning. FilmRise is also responsible for bringing a lot of other Warner-controlled properties to Amazon Prime Video, so who knows, maybe we will see the Caped Crusader on Amazon soon.

For now, let's appreciate the fact that one of the last remaining never-streaming iconic classic TV series is available uncut and free.

2) Amazon Prime Video: The FilmRise/Warner deal with Amazon is one of the underreported streaming stories of 2018. Combine that with all the Sony product showing up, and you have a classic fi;m library that is really getting beefed up. I would advise anyone depressed over the loss of Filmstruck to dig into Prime, which this week alone added Born Yesterday, Bonnie and Clyde, and other notable films not starting with "B."

3) Hulu: After an all-too-brief run on Netflix, The Wonder Years arrives here. My kids enjoyed a mini-binge of The Amazing World of Gumball. I am not so cool with the idea of Disney taking full control of Hulu, as rumored, though. I'd much rather see the current co-ownership structure, which incentivizes Fox and Comcast/NBC to offer their product here. However, in the spirit of Christmas cheer, I am going to avoid worrying about it and enjoy the fact that Hulu is adding series like the acclaimed Killing Eve.

4) Netflix: There are some interesting new things this week, like a Dave Attell/Jeffrey Ross series, but once again all the stuff coming is overshadowed by stories about what's going--in this case, Daredevil, the latest high-profile cancellation. I don't know for sure if Netflix is ending it because of Disney+ or if Disney is the one pulling the strings, but it's funny that no one thinks it's an artistic decision. Netflix is going to really have to hustle to expand that Grace and Frankieverse if it wants to "replace" the Marvel shows.

5) YouTube/YouTube TV: I still love the YTTV service, but the news that Sling is adding the Discovery networks does remind you that those aren't available here. Fortunately for me, I don't watch those channels! Meanwhile, a ton of great old baseball footage and films were added to YouTube this week, giving me something to enjoy while I wait for the Pirates to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

6) Pluto TV: I finally watched an on-demand movie on Pluto, and I was impressed. The picture quality was good, and the commercial intrusion was much less obnoxious than on other platforms. There are some clunky aspects to the experience--for example, pausing the movie has a weird hiccup that makes the movie have to "catch up" from the previous pause point--but overall, it's pretty cool. Pluto can improve itself by making it easier to browse/search through its growing on-demand library.

BTW, the movie I watched was one I just missed on Turner Classic Movies a while ago, something I had been meaning to revisit since I started going back through the Toho-verse on Filmstruck:

7) Starz: I watched Starz a lot the last few weeks for podcast prep and have explored its catalog. One thing that really stands out is how new feature films just aren't a big deal on premium cable anymore. Yes, that overvation is about 5 years old, but I think Starz managed to stand out fairly recently. Now all the new movies are just so spread out that no one service can make a mark with any of them. That Disney/Netflix deal really hurt Starz by taking away a lot of its product, although I do notice that pre-Netflix deal movies like Frozen and Up are on Starz, and I don't think they ever made it to Netflix.

8) Best Christmas Channel 2018: Updated for the season, this free Roku channel has a nice selection of vintage toy ads, TV shows, movies, and best of all a nice grouping of old holiday-themed variety shows.

9) Boomerang: I signed up for another month to enjoy the nice array of holiday 'toons available. Maybe I'd be better off just buying Yogi's All-Star Christmas Comedy Caper, but this way I can also enjoy some Flintstones and Magilla Gorilla.

10) The Criterion Channel: I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they come up with something good when they launch next year, but a reminder: before Filmstruck teamed up with TCM, the combo of it and the Criterion Channel was too arthouse-centric and too pricy for me. Hopefully the new CC goes a different direction.

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