The days of gifting discs of your favorite movies are waning. Even with the PS5 and Xbox Series X providing a “next-gen” player for 4K Blu-rays, fewer and fewer people are buying physical media each year.
But if you’re a giver hoping to gift the power of cinema to someone in your life, there is an alternative: streaming service subscriptions. Instead of picking up a copy of the 2002 Spider-Man for the MCU-devoted blockbuster fan in your life, a year of Hulu could grant them permission to view while opening the door to so much more. Not as fun to wrap, but that’s life.
But how do you actually gift the various streaming services? Here’s a breakdown:
How to gift Disney Plus
Disney Plus offers original programming like the Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, but its biggest draw is Disney’s back catalog. More than anything, Disney Plus is proof that Disney owns a mind-numbing collection of IP — and with more on the way. This winter promises the direct-to-streaming release of Pixar’s Soul and the new Marvel series WandaVision.
The good news is you can gift anyone a one-year gift subscription — just provide the recipient’s email address, choose a delivery date, and the service takes care of the rest. The catch is that you can’t step in and pay a current’s user’s bill for a year; only new subscribers can be gifted the service.
What it costs: $69.99/year
How to gift Netflix
The Xerox of streaming services, Netflix has been able to stay top dog (or at least one of a small litter of top dogs) through a combination of churning out original content and buying up the rights to hugely popular licensed properties like Friends and The Office. Now that much of that third-party IP is leaving the platform for various streaming services, Netflix will likely double down on its originals, as well as continue to look abroad for licensing opportunities — foreign reality shows like The Great British Baking Show and Terrace House seem to be a rich vein.
There’s no one-click way to gift a friend Netflix, but the good news is whether or not your loved one is a subscriber or not, you can send them an official Netflix gift card to pay for their subscription next year. Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy all offer options.
What it costs: $8.99/month for Basic; $13.99/month for Standard; $17.99/month for Premium
How to gift HBO Max
HBO parent company WarnerMedia launched a new over-the-top service, HBO Max, in May 2020. “Anchored by HBO programming,” the platform also includes other Warner properties, like the Harry Potter film series. (Notably, Friends left Netflix for HBO Max, and WarnerMedia nabbed exclusive rights to the Studio Ghibli collection, too.) It costs the same $14.99 as HBO Now, and most HBO subscribers had their subscription converted to HBO Max automatically.
Despite a messy launch, HBO Max has a lot of good content, including the entire HBO back catalog, Studio Ghibli films, and DC superhero movies. It also has a full schedule of original programming, like new Adventure Time specials, reality competition shows, and of course, the Justice League Snyder Cut.
HBO Max offered gift cards for purchase when the service launched in the spring, but as of publish, there’s currently no easy way to gift a newcomer the platform. The only option is to sign someone up the old fashioned way.
What it costs: $14.99/month (seven-day free trial)
What to watch: Succession, Studio Ghibli films, Adventure Time Distant Lands (available June 25)
How to gift Amazon Prime Video
In addition to free one-day shipping, discounts at Whole Foods, and exclusive Twitch benefits, one of the biggest Amazon Prime perks is access to the company’s streaming service. Amazon Prime Video offers a massive library of free content for subscribers, including original TV shows and movies alongside licensed properties.
Amazon Video is one of the few video-on-demand platforms to offer other streaming services as add-ons. With Amazon Channels, Prime members can subscribe to services like HBO or Shudder without leaving the Amazon Video app. And you can give the gift of Prime this holiday season by simply heading to Amazon’s official gift page and adding a subscription to your cart. The recipient will receive a gift notification email on whichever day you choose.
What it costs: Three months for $38.97; 12 months for $119.00
How to gift Hulu
Of the major streaming services, Hulu is the best option for cord-cutters who want to keep up with current TV shows. NBC, Fox, and some cable networks drop episodes onto the platform the day after they air, which means you don’t have to wait for an entire season to be released on Amazon or Netflix before catching up with your favorite series. That’s in addition to plenty of original programming, licensed content, premium cable add-ons, and a live TV plan.
There’s no way to gift the literal Hulu subscription to a recipient this year, but Hulu does offer gift cards that can be redeemed by new or current subscribers.
What it costs: $5.99/month ad-supported; $11.99/month ad-free (30-day free trial)
What to watch: Solar Opposites, Shrill, PEN15, tons of ABC, NBC, and Fox TV shows
How to gift Apple TV Plus
Unlike Hulu or Netflix, Apple isn’t licensing third-party content for Apple TV Plus. At least at launch, Apple TV Plus is solely a hub for Apple’s own original programming. Structurally, it’s closer to a premium over-the-top add-on like HBO Now than a major platform like Amazon. Still, Apple brings a signature Silicon Valley polish — not to mention heaps of money — to its impressive roster, which includes big names like Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, and Oprah.
There are a few ways to gift Apple TV Plus! You can either buy a potential subscriber an Apple gift card, pick up Apple One, which bundles Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, and iCloud; or you could be the best person ever and buy someone a new iPhone or Apple computer, which would come with a year-long subscription to the service.
What it costs: $4.99/month (seven-day free trial; 12-month free trial with purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV)
What to watch: Mythic Quest, Ted Lasso, See, Servant
How to gift CBS All Access
CBS All Access’ original content has mostly flown under the radar, with the exception of its Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery and Picard. The service also offers ad-free CBS shows, as well as live TV streaming — including CBS Sports and the CBS-owned ET Live.
To pick up the service, CBS has gone the gift card route, allowing new or current subscribers to cash in for another few months or year of programming.
What it costs: $5.99/month ad-supported; $9.99/month ad-free (seven-day free trial)
What to watch: Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone
How to gift Crunchyroll
The largest streaming service for licensed anime, Crunchyroll has also branched out into original programming. Some content is available for free, but a premium membership gets rid of ads, and includes access to simulcasted shows as soon as an hour after they air in Japan.
Currently, anime-givers can give anime-wanters a digital gift card for one-, three- or 12-month memberships.
What it costs: $7.99/month; $9.99/month bundled with VRV
What to watch: Polar Bear Café, Mob Psycho 100, Yuri!!! On Ice, Laid-back Camp
How to gift Peacock Premium
NBC’s second foray into the streaming wars (RIP Seeso) will include next-day access to current broadcast shows, a collection of classic series, and plenty of original programming. Though let’s face it, it will always and forever be known as the streaming service that took The Office away from Netflix.
Unfortunately there aren’t options to gift a Peacock Premium account this year, unless you do it the old fashioned way: Sign
What it costs: free ad-supported (with only “select episodes” of Peacock originals); $4.99/month ad-supported (free for Comcast and Cox subscribers); $9.99/month ad-free
What to watch: Brave New World, the SNL archives, Shrek, the Saved By the Bell reboot
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