By Mike Murphy
As the county gradually continues to reopen in June, there’ll be one more reason to finally leave the house — there’s not much new stuff to stream.
The streaming-content fire hose will slow to a relative trickle in June, due more to traditional summer programming habits than coronavirus-related production issues, making June perhaps a good time to cut back on streaming subscriptions for those wishing to re-evaluate their budgets as unemployment soars and job security becomes a concern for tens of millions of people.
As we have previously mentioned, consumers can take full advantage of cord cutting by capitalizing on the ability to add and drop streaming services each month, and all it takes is good planning and timing. Remember, a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of each month.
Consumers can also take advantage of deals for free streaming trials, as Disney and Apple in particular focus on building subscriber bases rather than growing revenue (for the time being, at least). You’re never going to get a better deal than free, and the offers won’t last forever.
Free possibilities aside, when it’s time to decide where your subscription dollars should go, What’s Worth Streaming is here to help. We rate each major streaming service every month as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ ratings of buy, hold and sell, and pick the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in June 2020, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Netflix ($8.99 or $12.99 a month)
Spring was Emmy season for streaming services, and Netflix’s /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX -2.82% June lineup reflects that summer’s here, with noticeably fewer prestige releases. That’s not to say the cupboard is bare, but savvy consumers should see a little flashing yellow warning light when the highest-profile new series are the final seasons of “Fuller House” (June 2) and “13 Reasons Why” (June 5), both of which, critically speaking, should have ended their runs long ago. In terms of quality, the best bets for June are a pair of reality-based shows: Season 5 of “Queer Eye” (June 5), in which the Fab Five head to Philadelphia to offer makeovers, with tearful and touching results; and Season 6 of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj” (June 7), the Peabody Award-winning comedy/news analysis show.
The most intriguing offerings in June are a pair of wildly different original movies: Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” (June 12) and Will Ferrell’s “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” (June 26). This will be Lee’s first direct-to-streaming movie and his first feature film since 2018’s “BlacKkKlansman,” for which he won his first Oscar. It’s about four African-American Vietnam vets who return to their former battlefield to search for the remains of a fallen comrade — and a buried treasure. Netflix has been able to pump out consistently decent action movies (See: “Extraction,” “6 Underground”), and this looks like another one — and thanks to Lee’s touch, it’ll likely be a war movie with depth, and better than it needs to be. On the other end of the spectrum, “Fire Saga” is a ridiculously goofy spoof of the annual Eurovision contest, which in real life was canceled this year due to the pandemic. But while Ferrell and Rachel McAdams look gloriously weird playing an Icelandic singing duo , there’s a danger it could end up being too much of a one-note comedy. Still, both should be worth a look.
There should be some hidden gems for viewers digging a little deeper into Netflix’s offerings, including the third and final season of the excellent German time travel-conspiracy thriller “Dark,” a sprawling mystery that spans multiple generations and appropriately launches on June 27 — the date of the apocalypse in the series’ timeline. There’s also Season 2 of the subdued and surprisingly charming “Dating Around” (June 12), a low-stakes show where singles navigate five first dates, with the only prize being a second date; the third season of the British cop show “Marcella” (June 14), starring Anna Friel as a detective who this season is working undercover in Belfast; the docu-series “Lenox Hill” (June 10), which follows the personal and professional lives of four doctors in New York City (of course, it was shot pre-pandemic); and the addition of all three seasons of NBC’s “Hannibal” (June 5), the 2013-’15 series about the sophisticated serial killer, which might have been the most disturbing yet jaw-droppingly brilliant show on network TV in recent years.
Play, pause or stop: Play. Even in a relatively slow month, Netflix’s deep and varied offerings are still the best in class.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month)
The long-awaited new streaming service from AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.60% WarnerMedia launched May 27, and the higher price may scare off new subscribers. (Those who already get HBO won’t notice a difference, since it’s the same price as the premium cable channel.) Apologies to Disney and Apple, but if ever a service should be called “Plus,” it’s this one. The service is everything you’d get from HBO — which remains the gold standard of cable TV — plus series from Warner’s TV channels, which include TBS, TNT, CNN and Cartoon Network, plus a vast catalog of movies from Warner Bros., the Criterion Collection, Studio Ghibli and more.
The big question is: Who is this for? Will consumers who have don’t already subscribe to HBO be willing to pay a premium price for a service that’s comparable to the much cheaper Hulu? It’s got a solid subscriber base already, since most current HBO subscribers got an automatic upgrade. But even that’s confusing. If you’ve already cut the cord and subscribe to HBO Now directly, or through Apple or Google, you’ve been migrated automatically to Max. No muss, no fuss. But you won’ t get the automatic upgrade if you get HBO Now through Amazon Prime or Roku (at least until new licensing deals are signed).
If you get HBO through your cable provider, you probably have Max as well, as AT&T has made deals with Comcast, Charter, Cox and other cable companies. If you’re unsure, check with your cable provider, because the launch of HBO Max means there’s no reason to pay for just HBO when you can get significantly more content at the same price with Max.
The service is loaded — in addition to HBO’s huge library, such as “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “The Wire,” HBO Max will launch with every season of “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” along with a handful of originals and thousands of hours of movies and previously-aired Warner series. June will bring the long-awaited third season of the millennial comedy/thriller “Search Party” (June 25), which switches to HBO Max from its former home at TBS; the HBO limited series “Perry Mason” (June 21), with Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) starring as a private eye in the noirish prequel to the iconic courtroom series; the HBO true-crime docuseries “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” (June 28), about author Michelle McNamara’s obsessive hunt for the Golden State Killer ; the HBO sexual-assault dramedy “I May Destroy You” (June 7); all 23 seasons of “South Park” (June 24) and much more.
On top of that is a load of kids content, such as new cartoons from Looney Tunes and Popeye , and movies such as “Titanic,” “The Goonies ” and “Ford v. Ferrari.”
Play, pause or stop: Play. Yes, it’s the most expensive streaming service. But in terms of both quality and quantity, it’s worth it — and if you’re already subscribing to HBO, you probably already have it.