ask a cool person

The Best Streaming Services for Every Type of Person

Photo: Getty Images

The Great Streaming Wars of 2020 are fully underway, and at just the right moment, considering how much TV we’ve all been watching during quarantine. Joining the big four of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ are services like Quibi, which launched in the spring (not that anyone noticed). HBO Max debuted in May, while NBC’s Peacock rolled out nationwide in July. It’s a lot to keep track of — especially when you consider the 200 or so other niche streamers offering highbrow foreign films, sleazy slashers, or shojo cartoons. (Luckily, many services offer free trials, in case you need a minute to figure out if you want to commit.) To help make sense of this new and overwhelming landscape (and plan your next binge), we asked more than two dozen interesting folks with highly discerning tastes to share their personal screen-time cocktails.

The dad desperate to entertain his toddler

Eugene Mirman, comedian and star of the new documentary It Started As a Joke

Noggin and Amazon Prime Video for kids’ shows: “So much of the streaming I do now is looking for shows my son will like. Noggin has PAW Patrol, which I guess kids enjoy and parents need. It’s fine. It’s not like the morals are bad. Like, there are no kids’ shows that end with, ‘And that’s why you should kill the weak.’ But shows like Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit are just more pleasant. Same with Tumble Leaf. It’s wonderful. Just really mellow. I also like kids’ shows that follow an adventure, like Octonauts (available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video). We went to an aquarium months ago, back when you could be in public, and my son Ollie says to me, ‘That’s a poison dart frog!’ And I look at him like, ‘That is a poison dart frog. How do you know that?!’”

Disney+ for Marvel Movies: “We just got Disney+, thinking it would be for Ollie, but I probably stream that more than him. I’ve been rewatching all the Marvel movies.”

DC Universe: “For DC stuff.”

CBS All Access: “For Picard and Star Trek: Discovery.”

The K-drama Addict

Gina Paek, radiologist

Rakuten Viki: “Of the streaming options for Korean programming, I prefer Rakuten Viki, which has several titles that are exclusive to it, including Hotel del Luna, Father Is Strange, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. Viki is also set up differently from other K-drama sites: The subtitles are translated by groups of fans dedicated to making the shows available to people who aren’t native Korean speakers. Though I understand Korean, there are some colloquialisms or technical terminology where having subtitles is helpful.”

The pastor who loves a good period piece

Kevin Miller, rector at Church of the Savior

PBS and Hulu: “My wife and I would much rather read books or listen to podcasts, but when we do stream, we’re suckers for period pieces like Sanditon or Poldark.”

Disney+ for The Mandalorian: “It was a grittier and fresher installment in the Star Wars universe than any of the last three theatrical releases.”

Amazon Prime Video for TV shows and movies: “That’s where we watch Death in Paradise, The Middle, and movies. Next up for us is Emma., and probably the faith-based movie about Jeremy Camp called I Still Believe. We tend not to go for straight-ahead religious channels such as UP Faith & Family, Crossflix, or Pure Flix. Maybe because the scriptwriting and production quality are generally low? Or the answers are too easy?”

The classic-cinema fan (with a taste for anime)

Bob Thompson, professor of TV and popular culture at Syracuse University

Criterion for classics and curated themes: “I still watch a lot of TV on my thousands of Beta tapes, VHSs, and DVDs, but on the first day of “stay at home,” my Betamax broke during a marathon screening of Manimal (NBC, 1983). So, in this pandemic spring, an old man’s fancy turns to streaming. The Criterion Channel is a breathtaking collection of the finest movies ever made anywhere, presented with the same care that Criterion brought to their most excellent — and most pricey — DVD releases. No Olympics in Japan this summer? Ichikawa Kon’s Tokyo Olympiad will bring you back to the last time the Summer Games were held there, in 1964. It’s one of the finest sports films ever made. Criterion also has lots of extras and monthly curated, themed suggestions — up right now are 15 films with musical scores by Quincy Jones.”

Brown Sugar for classic black cinema: Cooley High, Cleopatra Jones, Foxy Brown, and Slaughter got me through Wednesday.”

Crunchyroll for anime: “My daughter (who is not at home with me) and I schedule designated times to ‘sync watch’ anime. We’re into The Promised Neverland now.”

The weather geek who loves HBO

Aaron Shaffer, meteorologist at ForecastMN

HBO for … nearly everything: “It’s like a great brewery — you may not like the genre of a show or the premise, but you can always trust it to be well-produced. My wife and I really liked The Outsider, a good detective show with supernatural elements.”

SevereStudios for storm chasing: “You can get your geek on by livestreaming the storm chasers at SevereStudios. It’s best to watch during a severe weather event, although there aren’t many chasers out these days due to COVID-19.”

WeatherNation: “More like a free version of the Weather Channel.”

The fitness addict whose television doubles as a home gym

Emily Derr, freelance consultant

Apple TV and Prime Video for some workouts: “I stream everything there, including Ballet Body: Total Body Workout and XtendBarre.”

NEOU for all of the rest: “It has every class imaginable, from Bollywood to Forme Barre. I’ve tried Jane DO, which is a New Jersey–based women’s dance-, step-, and bootcamp-infused workout founded by two former Radio City Rockettes; Fit and Lit, a hip-hop bootcamp rhythm workout; TrueForm Runner, a treadmill workout that I use on my elliptical; and BASE, a mobility and recovery workout.”

Kanopy or Hoopla for indie films: “They are free if your local library participates. You can get five borrows per month on Hoopla, including movies, music, audiobooks, and e-books, and four movie borrows per month on Kanopy.”