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 US:NFLX 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 US:T 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.
Hulu ($5.99 a month or $11.99 with no ads)
Hulu is pretty light on originals in June. The best of the bunch looks to be the “Love, Simon” half-hour spinoff series “Love, Victor” (June 19), a rom-com about a gay teen trying to find his place — both in a new town and in life. Expect it to be a sweet summer diversion. It’ll be joined by “Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi” (June 19), a docu-series in which the cookbook author and “Top Chef” host explores America’s rich and diverse food culture. This looks like shades of the late Anthony Bourdain, and worth checking out.
Missing baseball? The final season of “Brockmire” drops June 16, shortly after ending its run on IFC. Season 4 jumps ahead a decade into the future, with Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) going from a foul-mouthed and general mess of a baseball announcer to commissioner of Major League Baseball. It’s a hilarious and under-seen gem.
But that’s about it. If you want to make a subscription worth your while, catch up on recent shows, such as “Mrs America,” “Devs” or “Ramy,” or dive into FX’s vast library of series that are now on Hulu, such as “Better Things,” “What We Do in the Shadows” or “Mr. Inbetween.”
Play, pause or stop: Pause and think about it. Hulu is still the best bargain in streaming, with a deep library, but if you’re looking for new shows and want to trim expenses, this wouldn’t be a bad month to cut it loose.
Disney+ ($6.99 a month)
Not much to see in June. The one big addition is “Artemis Fowl” (June 12), the film adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s popular young-adult book series about a young criminal mastermind, which had its release moved to Disney’s US:DIS streaming service after the pandemic made a theatrical release unfeasible.
Aside from a handful of nature shows, random movies (like “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” on June 26), and some nostalgia shows (“Muppet Babies” and “Schoolhouse Rock,” both coming June 19), there’s also the behind-the-scenes docu-series “Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2” (June 26), a six-episode look at the production of the box-office smash sequel.
Play, pause or stop: Pause. If you have kids or are a “Star Wars”/Marvel/“Simpsons” nut, there’s still plenty of old stuff to watch in the catalog. If not, there’s not much variety or depth here, and you won’t miss anything by not subscribing in June.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99 a month)
Amazon Prime Video is pretty much taking the month off, so budget-minded viewers can do the same. Amazon is debuting only three originals in June: the movie “7500” (June 19), a German thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt; a standup comedy special from Gina Brillon (June 5); and a new season of the animated kids show “Pete the Cat” (June 26). Last year’s hit “Knives Out” (June 12) is the best movie being added to its library.
Speaking of Amazon’s XE:AMZ library, it took a big hit thanks to the launch of HBO Max, as the new streamer took back older HBO shows (such as “The Sopranos” and “The Wire”) that had been available for free on Prime Video, but no longer are.
Play, pause or stop: Stop. If you’re a month-to-month subscriber, you can safely cut it loose for a month knowing you won’t miss anything. If you’re on the yearly subscription and want to get your money’s worth, catch up on recent releases, such as Season 2 of “Homecoming,” the indie sci-fi movie “The Vast of Night” or dig into the library for the excellent Icelandic crime thriller “Trapped,” which will be especially good to watch on a hot summer day (it takes place in a blizzard).
CBS All Access ($5.99 a month or $9.99 with no ads)
CBS All Access, from ViacomCBS US:VIAC, is set to roll out Season 2 of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” (June 25). After a decent first season, the second season of the rebooted classic sci-fi anthology series will feature Morena Baccarin, Topher Grace, Natalie Martinez and Billy Porter, among many others, in guest roles. All 10 episodes will drop at once, which could present a strategic opportunity for those curious to try out the service — subscribe for a month only and binge through all three of its best series: “Star Trek: Picard,” “The Good Fight” and “Twilight Zone.”
The other June debut is the eminently skippable “The Thomas John Experience” (June 4), a reality series starring the purported psychic.
All Access may have a brighter future though: It plans a relaunch later this summer, adding 30,000 more episodes of shows from across its Viacom channels, which include MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central; 1,000 movies from Paramount, including the “Mission: Impossible” franchise; as well as live sports and news. There’s no date for the relaunch yet, but stay tuned.
Play, pause or stop: Stop. There’s just not enough content to make it worth the money. Yet.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Apple TV+ still doesn’t have a must-see series, and June doesn’t appear likely to change that. There’s the documentary series “Dear…” (June 5), profiling 10 iconic artists, athletes and entertainers and the people they have inspired, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s documentary film “Dads” (June 19), about six “extraordinary” fathers. Both look fine, but hardly game-changing.
But Apple US:AAPL appears to be taking steps to bolster its lineup: It recently bought the rights to stream the upcoming Tom Hanks World War II movie “Greyhound,” after the pandemic scuttled its release in theaters. Apple hasn’t set a release date, but it was to open on June 12, and it would be a reasonable assumption to think it’ll debut around that time. Bloomberg News also recently reported Apple it looking to buy older shows and movies to create a deeper catalog. That would be a much-needed improvement, and one potential target could be “Mad Men,” which is shopping for a streaming home once its deal with Netflix expires in June.
Play, pause or stop: Stop. There’s not enough there. But that could soon change.
Quibi ($4.99 a month or $7.99 a month with no ads)
Co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg in early May blamed the pandemic for Quibi’s rough start and disappointing viewer numbers. But while the national shutdown certainly affected viewers’ behaviors and budgets, one major problem remains the lack of quality offerings. To date, there’s just nothing worth paying for on Quibi, and June doesn’t look to change that. On tap: the Ron Funches-hosted game show “Nice One!” (June 8); the musical comedy “Royalties” (June 1), starring Darren Criss and Kether Donohue; and Paula Pell in the comedy/mystery “Mapleworth Murders.” Great actors and comedians there, but for less-than-10-minute bursts, not worth a subscription.
Play, pause or stop: Stop. Just…no.
Peacock (Free for some Comcast subscribers only, for now)
Peacock launched for free for many Comcast Corp. US:CMCSA cable subscribers in April, but won’t be available to the general public until July. It’s got a solid library of NBCUniversal shows, such as “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Friday Night Lights,” and older shows such as “Frasier,” “Columbo” and “Rockford Files,” but the original series will be on hold until the July launch. We’ll revisit it then.