There comes a time in every man’s life where he must make a seemingly impossible choice. This particular decision will ripple outwards, informing his future, filling hours of his leisure time, making him laugh and sometimes cry. This decision will change the way he understands himself and the world he lives in.
The decision I’m talking about, as you definitely did not guess, is choosing which streaming service to commit to. I know, I know. I can already hear the scathing rebuke from Fight Club’s Tyler Durden in my ear. But before you scoff, let me justify these grandiose, mostly tongue-in-cheek claims.
Yes, there are much more important decisions to be made in life. But since the average American adult watches about 5 hours of TV-oriented media per day, you can understand how the streaming service you end up choosing will become a big part of your life. Because each service holds claim to a unique collection of shows and films, by choosing a particular provider, you’re really choosing the stories and characters that are hosted on that network. And in today’s golden era of television, making that choice can be pretty damn difficult.
So here I’d like to examine the strengths and weaknesses of STARZ’s premium streaming platform. With so much competition, I want to suss out the good, the bad, and the in-between. Why should you dish out money to pay for STARZ? What does it offer that others don’t? And is it a good value? After exploring the matter, I’ve got those answers and more.
How it Started
As you may have already known, STARZ has been around in various iterations since the 1990s. Its growth coincided with the advent of the internet, though the two weren’t directly linked. At first, STARZ was an extremely unprofitable platform, netting losses in the hundreds of millions per year, but eventually, they got it together. Things started looking up as digital cable became widely adopted throughout the US in the early 2000s. Digital cable allowed providers to host many channels where they had previously been limited.
STARZ, which was growing rapidly, happened to be in the right place at the right time, as providers now had more room for new channels, and STARZ was an attractive candidate.
Fast forward through a decade of slow but steady growth and you arrive at the mid-2010s, when the network was acquired by Lionsgate, the massive American entertainment company. Around the same time, STARZ launched a new app to go along with its subscription streaming service. Since then, it has stood its ground as a direct competitor to networks like HBO and Showtime.
How it Works
Customers have a choice between subscribing directly through STARZ or obtaining a subscription through [Amazon’s Prime Video](link to our Prime Video review). Both portals offer the same content, which includes STARZ’s current and back catalog of programming, as well as TV series and movies currently airing on Encore. Whether you subscribe through Prime Video or directly with STARZ, the membership will cost you $8.99/month, which is cheaper than both Showtime ($10.99/month) and HBO ($14.99/month). Depending on the time of year, you may be able to get a bundled deal that’ll save you money. Otherwise, sometimes STARZ offers short-term free trials so you can sample the service before ponying up the first month’s payment.
Once you finalize your agreement, you’ll be granted access to STARZ’s library. To access it, you’ve got a few options. You can watch it on a desktop or a mobile via STARZ’s web client, or you can download the app and watch it on supported streaming devices like Roku or Chromecast. It’s worth mentioning that some folks out there may already have access to STARZ through their cable bundle. If you are one of these people, you should know that you can also use the app or the web client whenever you want.
Now we get to the real meat of the matter. The most important factor in this equation is the content that STARZ hosts. You want to know, in simple terms, what they’ve got and whether it’s enough to lure you in. So let’s take a look.
To begin with, you should understand STARZ’s business model. Rather than serving as a central hub for all sorts of media from every which direction, STARZ focuses on offering a smaller selection of high-quality programming. Many of the movies on the platform are exclusive to the network, so that’s something to consider. STARZ also boasts a pretty impressive array of blockbusters – particularly classics – at any given time. In fact, they even compete with Netflix and Hulu in this regard. Here you can browse which movies are currently available, but to give you an idea:
– The Big Lebowski
– Call Me by Your Name
– Back to the Future
– My Cousin Vinny
– Reservoir Dogs
– The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
– The Truman Show
The list goes on and on. As you can tell, they really excel at ‘90s nostalgia-era content, but perhaps not so much in contemporary films.
As for series, STARZ is certainly lacking in big-name shows, especially when you compare it to HBO. But this isn’t to say that their series aren’t good; quite the contrary, actually. You might describe much of their content as “lesser-known gems”. I feel this description applies to shows like American Gods, an adaptation of the namesake novel by Neil Gaiman, as well as Ash vs. Evil Dead, which has a cult-like following that backs it up.
Other popular series include Counterpart, Black Sails, and Spartacus. Here you can browse the whole collection.
Design of the Website
When you sign in to STARZ through the web client, you’ll first see a large slideshow-style banner displaying featured content. This banner takes up much of the screen, and besides being a bit annoying, it’s impractical, as you have to click one-by-one through each title to browse through the featured catalog. So what I do, and what I imagine most people do, is I skip right past that boisterous banner. Beneath it, you’ll find a pretty standard, grid-oriented display that you can toggle through much more easily. Each row is categorized differently, with the first being sorted by what’s “Popular”, and the next, “Original Series Only On STARZ”, etc. Pretty standard stuff.
If you already know what you’re looking for, the search bar is right at the top of the page, in plain sight, which is appreciated. You can also choose to jump straight into the “Series” or “Movies” portal by clicking a direct link on the top of the landing page.
If you plan on doing much of your streaming through your phone, you’re in luck. Plenty of users have deemed STARZ’s mobile app as the best one out there in terms of simplicity and functionality. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with pretty fierce competition, too, so that’s saying a lot. As far as features go, it’s pretty standard, including Chromecast connectivity, downloadable content, and live-streaming support. The UI is sleek and intuitive, and navigating is as simple as you’d hope for.
One not-so-peachy thing to note about the app that many users have complained about is that it may be hard to activate or cancel your subscription through the mobile client. For whatever reason, this is a common issue. You can imagine how angry some people are at having to pay for an extra month of a service that they tried in vain to cancel. While this issue is relatively uncommon, it still exists, so be warned.
Prime Video’s Strengths
So now that we’ve gotten a general idea of what STARZ is all about, let’s circle back and comment on its strong points. For one, it’s cheap. It’s nearly half the price of HBO, and it’s about 20% cheaper than Showtime. Additionally, you can pay on a month-to-month basis, cancel your subscription, and resubscribe whenever you want. Very convenient.
As for content, STARZ has a pretty large collection of classic movies, especially from the ‘70s–’90s. Its original series are somewhat obscure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the mainstream’s tastes are bland. Personally, I find shows like Ash vs. Evil Dead and American Gods to be fantastic, and some of the other series are great too. And we have to reiterate that the STARZ-exclusive collection is impressive.
Prime Video’s Weaknesses
Still, STARZ has its flaws, even if they’re few and far between. The most obvious shortcoming is its contemporary movie selection. It’s not non-existent, but it’s a bit disappointing. Still, the nostalgic-minded amongst us will definitely appreciate the oldies. And when it comes to big-name series, there are virtually none, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing, depending on your tastes.
Library content aside, one gripe many users have with the app is how hard it is to manage a subscription on the mobile client. This could (and should) be patched up pretty quickly, I imagine, so we’ll see how that plays out.