HBO Now is finally here, and it could change everything.
HBO's new standalone streaming service just launched on Apple devices and Optimum Online. What this means is you can now stream all of HBO's offerings, from the latest episode of Game of Thrones to the Academy Award-winning Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour to the latest big boxing match, without having to pay for a cable subscription in addition to the premium cable channel.
As you have probably noticed, everything is going the way of streaming these days. The success of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Hulu has increasingly prompted movie and TV fans to say goodbye to their cable subscriptions and hello to solely streaming their entertainment. So HBO's new streaming platform is obviously going to be the way of the future, meaning that we can probably expect HBO's competitors, Showtime and Starz, to follow suit.
But for now at least, there's still going to be people that aren't ready to cut the cord just yet and want to keep their cable subscriptions. Since, hello, that can be expensive, they may need to choose between HBO, Showtime and Starz. Why not get your feet wet in the digital pond by analyzing what each has to offer in terms of its streaming service, which comes free with a subscription to each of these premium cable channels? Here's how HBO Go, Showtime Anytime and Starz Play stack up against one another.
Since these premium cable channels originally aired movies, the film selection on each streaming service seems like the best place to start. Overall, you'll find a decent collection of films that span decades and genres on HBO Go, Showtime Anytime and Starz Play. However, it looks like you'll find more low-budge, indie and B-status films on Showtime Anytime, if that's your thing. HBO Go and Starz Play have a comparable selection of movies. However, HBO Go seems to get slightly newer films overall, so this is probably where you want to get your cinematic kicks from.
HBO, Showtime and Starz all have impressive showings in the original content game these days. You'll find Girls, Game of Thrones and True Detective on HBO Go. Showtime Anytime has Homeland, Masters of Sex and The Affair for your viewing pleasure. You can stream Outlander, Black Sails and The White Queen on Starz Play. Since Starz started producing original content more recently than HBO and Showtime, its TV series aren't as big of a draw for the streaming service. It's super-hard to choose between HBO and Showtime on this one, just because their original content is so different and they both distribute some of the best shows on TV today. However, with such classic and critically acclaimed series as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm also in HBO Go's arsenal, you've got to give this streaming service a slight edge.
HBO Documentaries have kind of taken on a life of their own. With the Academy Award-winning Citizenfour and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiering on HBO this year, the cable channel is still making headlines with its documentary films. The documentaries on Showtime Anytime and Starz Play aren't as high profile, but you'll still find plenty of gems that are worth just as much of your time. If you want to be more culturally literate, go for HBO Go. However, if you just want to watch some excellent docs, any of the streaming services will really do.
If you're hankering for a little bit more out of your streaming service than just movies and TV shows, you'll find it on HBO Go and Showtime Anytime, which have plenty of stand-up comedy specials, boxing bouts and sports news programs to whet your appetite. HBO Go's collection is much more expansive, so this streaming service is the clear winner here. Unfortunately, Starz Play doesn't really offer any specials, which may be a major setback for the streaming service here.
If you want to try before you buy, Showtime Anytime and Starz Play offer a few free episodes of their respective original series, including Homeland, The Affair and Outlander. Unfortunately, HBO Go does not allow you to stream any of HBO's original series for free, so you'll just have to take a leap of faith with this streaming service. This is definitely a nice gesture from Showtime Anytime and Starz Play, albeit one with ulterior motives, so props to each of these streaming services for their kindness.
HBO Go airs some of its programming at the exact same time that it premieres on HBO proper, usually season premieres or finales of buzzworthy shows. Unfortunately, HBO Go has famously had some issues in the past with keeping up with the surge in users on the platform during these times. If you want to watch HBO's content live, you generally have to watch the actual channel on TV. On the flip side, Starz Play doesn't seem to have any live-streaming capabilities. If not having live-streaming is a dealbreaker for you, Showtime Anytime is the platform for you. Through Showtime Anytime, you can stream anything as it airs live on Showtime. You even have a choice between the East Coast and West Coast feeds. I have to say, that's pretty awesome.
Whether you're an Apple or Android lover, you can access all three of these platforms from pretty much any device. There are apps for HBO Go, Showtime Anytime and Starz Play on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Xbox. HBO Go has a slight advantage here with availability on Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and Samsung Smart TV as well. But overall, the supported devices for each streaming service probably won't make or break them here.
Since each of these platforms comes free with your cable subscription, their cost really depends on what your cable provider charges you. The average cost of cable is $64.41, according to a May 2014 report from the Federal Communications Commission. Premium channels such as these also generally cost more to add on to your basic package. So really, the question is not which of these is the cheapest option. It's whether you want to pay for the cost of cable at all.
The decision of which premium cable channel to subscribe to definitely depends on your preferences and what you hope to get out of it. However, if you're new to this whole thing, you can't go wrong with HBO Go. Starz Play has a great selection of films, but until it beefs up its original content offerings some more, this streaming service just doesn't hold a candle to HBO Go or Showtime Anytime as of now. Showtime Anytime is a formidable opponent to HBO Go with its original series, and the fact that you can stream Showtime live through the platform is definitely a coup, but it's still second to HBO Go in terms of its film collection, the quality and quantity of its original programming and its other entertainment offerings. If you want an exceptional streaming experience from your premium cable channel, HBO Go delivers the most in almost every category. If you can only fit one premium cable streaming platform into your life, HBO Go is probably the way to go.
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