While no one can compete with Netflix on volume, at this point, it’s hard to say that they’re leading the streaming wars in terms of overall quality content. Over the last year or two, two contenders have emerged that have produced some absolutely incredible series that Netflix simply has been unable to come close to matching. That would be HBO Max and Apple TV Plus.
All you have to do is look at the 2022 content slate to see the disparity starting to widen. So far this year, here are the biggest series that each service has given us:
HBO Max (which includes HBO): Peacemaker, Julia, Minx, The Gilded Age, Tokyo Vice, Euphoria, Our Flag Means Death, Raised by Wolves
Apple TV Plus: Severance, Pachinko, Slow Horses, The Afterparty, Servant
Netflix: Inventing Anna, Pieces of Her, Bridgerton, Vikings Valhalla, Archive 81, In From the Cold
While some of this may be a matter of preference, I don’t think it’s particularly close. Shows like Euphoria have become almost Game of Thrones-level popular among Gen Z at this point. Severance and Pachinko are probably two of the best new series in the last several years. Julia is absolutely going to win Sarah Lancashire an Emmy.
And this list doesn’t even include shows outside the 2022 window. HBO with Station Eleven, The White Lotus, The Sex Live of College Girls, Succession. Apple TV Plus with Mythic Quest, Ted Lasso, For All Mankind, The Morning Show, Dickinson, Mr. Corman, Foundation.
Granted, I can name good Netflix shows too, but it feels like where 2 out of every 10 Netflix originals might be worth while these days, 8 out of 10 on HBO or Apple are really fan-tas-tic. HBO has a long history of curating high quality original content, and they’re continuing to do that with HBO Max. Apple TV Plus has been especially impressive. After a slow start, they have really managed to find some deeply fantastic gems, and are now producing must-watch television on a more consistent basis than their rivals. Oh and they casually just won the Oscar for Best Picture with CODA.
Left out of this conversation are Paramount Plus and Peacock, which I would argue are still finding their jogging and have far, far fewer must-watch series. Disney Plus is sort of its own planet, a must-own for any family, but right now relegated to a Star Wars or Marvel show you watch for six weeks at a time. Hulu and Amazon are older than Max and Apple, but I’d argue producing less must-watch content as well (though definitely check out The Dropout on Hulu).
Obviously Netflix isn’t going anywhere as market leader, but if you can expand your budget to a few more services, I’d argue HBO Max and Apple are your best value for the money right now, probably more than Netflix itself as it continues to jack up prices repeatedly. We’ll see what the rest of 2022 holds.