In an era of cord-cutting and newsletter abundance, there are some things that are worth it, and many things that are not! I’m going to break down my subscription list.
United States streaming services
Cable and satellite are awful. The ugly, horrific set-top box, the 12/24-month lock-in period, and the channels upon channels of garbage programming are completely unnecessary. The beautiful thing about streaming is that, sure, you may save a ton of money (I saved about 50% off my DirecTV bill when I cut the cord several years ago), but you also gain the convenience of being able to cycle onto services when programming of interest to you is available, and cycle off when it isn’t. For example, I love the show Billions. But it’s literally the only show on Showtime I care for. So, I subscribe to Showtime for a month, binge a season of Billions, and unsubscribe when I’m done.
With that in mind, here is a list of all the streaming services available in the US and when I elect to subscribe or cancel them:
- Broadcast streaming. Options include YouTube TV, Sling TV, AT&T Now, Hulu Live, and the new T-Mobile TVision. I always subscribe. Prices vary, I chose YouTube TV and it is $60/month. This handy comparison chart helps you decide which service is best for you based on the channels you’re interested in. (substantial discounts on AT&T Now if you’re an AT&T cellular subscriber)
- Netflix. I always subscribe. Premium 4K is $15.99/month. (substantial discounts if you’re a T-Mobile cellular subscriber)
- HBO Max. I always subscribe. $15/month.
- Showtime. I subscribe for one month only at the end of a season of Billions (episodes release weekly). $11/month.
- Starz. I don’t subscribe. $9/month.
- Hulu. I subscribe only during Handmaid’s Tale and The Orville. All episodes don’t release at once. Ad-free is $11.99/month.
- Peacock. Free version is good enough for me for now. I’ll wait and see if the original content is worth it to subscribe. Thus far it isn’t. $4.99/month.
- Amazon Prime Video. I always subscribe. Comes with Amazon Prime.
- Paramount+. I subscribe for one month only at the end of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. All episodes don’t release at once. All the other content on this service is horrible. (used to be called CBS All Access) Ad-free is $9.99/month.
- ESPN+. Only subscribe if you’re a hardcore sports addict who also gets ESPN elsewhere. Doesn’t include NFL or Sportscenter, but does include many NHL, MLB, and MLS games, as well as UFC. $4.99/month ($49.99/year)
- Disney+. I always subscribe. $6.99/month ($12.99/month with the Hulu and ESPN bundle).
- AppleTV+. I always subscribe. $4.99/month. Free first year if you buy a new iPhone. (available as part of Apple One)
- Discovery+. Launches in January 2021. $5/month. Includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, and more.
Streaming programming I loved
I’m being overly praiseful when I say “loved”. Some of this programming is merely tolerable. But apart from sitting on my SoulCycle bike and pedaling to nowhere or sitting on a Zoom and staring into nowhere, there’s not much else to do these days. That said, here’s a list of programming I enjoyed (in no particular order) and would recommend considering if you’re at the end of your rope in terms of new stuff to watch:
- Altered Carbon
- Cobra Kai
- The Crown
- Dead to Me
- Derry Girls
- Delhi Crime
- Enola Holmes (movie)
- The Good Place
- Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
- The Haunting of Hill House
- Lost in Space
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (movie)
- The Midnight Sky (movie)
- Never Have I Ever
- The Old Guard (movie)
- On My Block
- Peaky Blinders
- Pine Gap
- Queen’s Gambit
- Russian Doll
- Sabrina (the witch)
- Sex Education
- The Stranger
- Stranger Things
- Umbrella Academy
- The Witcher
- Le Chalet (French)
- Giri/Haji (Japanese/British)
- The Hookup Plan (French)
- Into the Night (French)
- Lupin (French)
- La Mante (French)
- Big Little Lies
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- The Flight Attendant
- Game of Thrones
- Harley Quinn
- I Hate Suzie
- Let Them All Talk (movie)
- Love Life
- Lovecraft Country
- My Brilliant Friend
- Perry Mason
- Raised by Wolves
- True Detective
- The Undoing
- The Wire
- The Americans
- The Boys
- The Hunters
- Jack Ryan
- The Marvelous Ms Maisel
- Modern Love
- Star Trek: Discovery (CBS)
- Star Trek: Picard (CBS)
- The Mandalorian (Disney)
- A Handmaids Tale (Hulu)
- Deutschland 83 / 86 / 89 (Hulu)
- Devs (Hulu)
- Downton Abbey (Peacock)
- The First (Hulu)
- Hillary (Hulu)
- Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
- Atlanta (FX)
- Killing Eve (FX)
- For All Mankind (Apple)
- Ted Lasso (Apple)
- Tehran (Apple)
- The Morning Show (Apple)
- Mythic Quest (Apple)
- Billions (Showtime)
- Dexter (Showtime)
- Homeland (Showtime)
- True Blood (Showtime)
- Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix)
Legendary shows always worth bingeing:
- The Americans
- Breaking Bad
- Downton Abbey
- Game of Thrones
- Mad Men
- The Sopranos
- The Wire
Newsletters I subscribe to
We’re in a sort of “newsletter renaissance”. I’m old enough to remember spending a day every month unsubscribing to crap newsletters littering my spam folder. But now, people actually pay “thought leaders” to tell us what’s interesting. Some of it is good, some of it is mediocre, and so I won’t hurt anybody’s feelings, I will not mention the ones I think are truly horrible.
- Stratechery. To me, this is the grandaddy of all subscription newsletters. Ben Thompson’s analysis of critical moments in the technology industry is essential reading. He publishes daily throughout the week. I’d say maybe 50% of the content is relevant to my interests, but I do at least skim the rest and always come away smarter and more informed. $120/year.
- The Bulwark Plus. I’m center-left on the American political spectrum. I respect and adored President Obama, and loathe President Trump. Within the spectrum of politics, what amounts to mainstream Republican discourse is too racist and wackadoodle for me. But I do value an informed center-right perspective, and the folks at The Bulwark are thoughtful and dignified about their discourse. I feel like there’s something I can learn from them. $100/year.
- Ben Evans. Evans is a long-time investor turned independent industry analyst. His annual talks at the Andreesen-Horowitz conference were always interesting to me. I was hoping his newsletter would be more “insights through data” content, but so far it has been a lot of opinion about topics only of tangential interest to me. He’s a fantastic writer and communicator, so I’m sticking with it. $100/year
- Insight by Zeynep Tufecki. Tufecki is an exceptional writer and has loads of really valuable commentary on everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to reining in Big Tech. Her Twitter feed is a must-follow. Her newsletter just kicked off. $100/year
- Read Multiplex by Brian Roemmele. I don’t know how I came to start following Roemmele on Twitter, but he is incredibly entertaining. His newsletter is $99.99/year and I’ve been considering subscribing.
Newspapers, magazines, and books
I cycle on and off a few subscriptions here.
- The Atlantic. Liberal news publication that I actually enjoy.
- The Athletic. Enjoyable sports coverage, and I found myself clicking-through many of their writers on Twitter. I figured it would be good to support their journalism since I enjoy so many of their writers.
- The New York Times. My frustration with their bothsidesism aside, they still do a remarkable job of chronicling these batshit insane times we live in.
- New York Magazine. I adore Vulture, and I could read Olivia Nuzzi’s words all day long.
- Vanity Fair. Fantastic pop culture coverage and occasionally great political coverage.
- The Washington Post. My hometown newspaper, and I still love them.
Note, I am a Kindle reader. I love being able to have my books with me everywhere (in the Before Times, we traveled quite a bit) and dislike clutter in the home (read my view on minimalism in “200 Things”).
- Kindle Unlimited. A pretty good bargain if you’re in binge reading mode. Most of the titles I’ve been interested in over the last couple of years have been available via the subscription service. In periods where I know I won’t be reading a lot, I cycle off the subscription and come back on when I know I’ll need it. $10/month.
I’ll keep this updated with new services and (hopefully) some international subscriptions as well. @ me on Twitter (@CoolAssPuppy) or comment here!