Yesterday we looked at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus in terms of how they fared in terms of classic TV in 2020. We're back at it with an old reliable and a new streaming service today:
Hulu: I can't think of any high-profile acquisitions of older shows in 2020, but that isn't a terrible thing. Status quo in a year of such upheaval is not necessarily a bad thing. In 2020, Netflix lost Cheers, Frasier, The Andy Griffith Show, The Office, The West Wing, and more. Is it only a matter of time before Disney-run Hulu loses CBS-controlled shows like The Twilight Zone? Perhaps, but Hulu remained stable this past year, and considering its huge catalog, that's a big win when compared to other services. It spent some energy trying to revamp its user interface, too, but the main thing is it didn't change too much for classic TV fans while it was beefing up its use for current TV fans (like the FX on Hulu arrangement). One interesting thing to look for is Seinfeld leaving sometime in 2021...for Netflix, of all places. That's 2021's problem, though.
Most pleasant surprise: Seeing so many of the CBS/Paramount shows still there after Netflix lost them.
Biggest disappointment: So far, there isn't much visible movement as far as bringing more from the Fox vaults to Hulu after the Disney purchase. Hulu seems unwilling/unable to bother acquiring things like Merv Griffin collections or Movin' On these days, but fortunately other free streamers are starting to get those kinds of shows.
Grade: B+ Solid streamer, and the fact I often forgot about it in 2020 was my own fault, but the lack of good "gets" last year keeps it from earning a higher grade.
HBO Max: The service finally landed on Roku, and actually by the time it did, it had beefed up its library and become a better value. Unfortunately, part of its higher perceived value is due to Netflix raising its prices and becoming less of an attraction.
HBO is competing with Netflix and Disney, and it's not gonna lure tens of millions of subscribers at its premium price with Eight Is Enough reruns. Still, can't it offer a little bit for classic TV fans? I love that Warner Brothers/AT&T is still licensing series to other services (keep reading this series), but something like Night Court isn't on any streamer. It's barely on TV, period, these days. I didn't expect HBO MAX to make a big push with the likes of Alice over Game of Thrones, but the near-total inattention to that vast WB library is a bummer.
What keeps HBO MAX relevant in this area is what it throws into the "kids and family" section, including The Flintstones, Josie and the Pussycats, and lots of original Sesame Street episodes. It uploaded a great 1970s Street Christmas special for the holidays...not that I noticed until after the holidays.
Most pleasant surprise: Wonder Woman appearing as an unannounced drop right before Christmas.
Biggest disappointment: At the risk of being a (Oscar the?) grouch, that show and all the other DC content sloooooowly coming should have been here months ago.
Grade: D+ If you already bought HBO, it's a no-brainer, but this grade is for classic TV, and HBO MAX has a long way to go there. Additions like Wonder Woman and Batman: The Animated Series give hope that more is on the way. I think maybe when the rumored ad-supported version is ready, AT&T will have a bunch of new shows ready to bolster its available hours.
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