Sizing up streaming services: who had the best summer season?

By Liv Barry

Lifestyle Editor

Fall television season is upon us, with upcoming shows like “The Rings of Power” on Prime Video, Disney+’s “Andor,” and ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” season two to look forward to.

As exciting as the prospect of these shows are, the beginning of autumn means that it is time to reflect on the summer television season. Here’s a look at the top three streaming services – Netflix, Hulu, and HBOMax – and how their summer programming performed.

Netflix

Netflix was recently bemoaned by audiences and critics alike for its alleged decline in quality programming. According to The Daily Beast, the streaming service lost 200,000 subscribed in quarter one of 2022, and is predicted to lose one million more by the end of quarter two.

 “…lately [Netflix] seems to be banking on the cheesy rom-coms, middling sci-fi, and action flicks that dominate its Top 10, while the TV side seems overrun by the trashy reality shows that tip into hate-watch territory,” said The Daily Beast writer Emma Fraser.

Things are not entirely dismal for the streaming giant, however.

“Stranger Things” season four dominated this summer’s pop culture, marking the second-ever Netflix show to garner over one billion hours viewed within the first month of release.

Aside from “Stranger Things,” Netflix released a handful of critically panned shows this summer, including “First Kill” and “Boo, Bitch.”

“The Sandman” and “Umbrella Academy” season three also received tepid reviews, with some praising these shows for their technical feats and others criticizing their repetitive or nonsensical storylines.

Despite the lukewarm reception of its summer season, Netflix still holds the streaming wars crown, but the service might be hanging on by just a thread.

Hulu

While Hulu lacks the large catalog of original series that its peers maintain, the streaming service makes up for it through its licensed programming with the premium channel FX.

Since its launch in 1994, FX cultivated an HBO-like reputation for raunchier quality television. This summer, the premium channel released a number of series made for Hulu, including “The Bear,” “Reservation Dogs” season two, and “What We Do in the Shadows” season three. Each of these series was released to great critical acclaim, with the shows maintaining Rotten Tomatoes scores between 98 and 100.

“The Bear,” which stars “Shameless” actor Jeremy Allen White, was a particular hit for the streaming service.

“The Bear is horrifically stressful; it’s also thrilling, ambitious, funny, devastating,” said The Atlantic critic Sophie Gilbert.

Through FX’s programming, Hulu has been able to push past its reputation as second-best to Netflix. As long as the partnership continues, Hulu could be coming for Netflix’s crown.

HBOMax

On the surface, it may appear as though HBOMax had a quiet summer lineup. Many of its highly anticipated shows, like “House of the Dragon” and “White Lotus” season two, premiere this fall.

If you look a little closer, however, you’ll see that HBOMax released two of their most critically successful shows of the year this summer: “Barry” season three and Nathan Fielder’s “The Rehearsal.”

Both shows sparked discussion on social media regarding ethics, existentialism, and human nature.

“The Rehearsal” also inspired a heated opinion piece in The New Yorker in regards to how Fielder, the showrunner and primary lead, treats the subjects of the show.

While HBOMax’s summer season was deceptively low-key, the ideas posed in its summer programming make for a far more interesting batch of shows compared to its competitors.

Some have already predicted HBOMax to dominate future streaming wars, but for now, audiences and critics will have to wait for its flashier programming before making any conclusions.

Photo provided by Wikimedia Commons

Photo caption: Netflix dominated the streaming wars since its inception, beating out Hulu and HBOMax for the platform with the highest subscriber count of 222 million subscribers as of January 2022.

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