How to maximize your streaming in October 2023, and why Netflix is all you need

It’s time to churn, baby, churn.

The streaming scene has changed significantly over the past year or so, and for the worse: more expensive, less new programming, smaller libraries of older shows. And it’s coming at a time when consumers are being increasingly pressed by higher costs on all fronts. Prices for Disney’s ad-free tiers are rising sharply in October, and Amazon will jack up prices early next year for those who don’t want to see commercials. So it’s time for consumers to once again reassess which services are really worth paying for.

There are three options if you don’t want your monthly streaming bill to look like your old triple-digit cable bill: bundle (you can save significantly with a Hulu-Disney+ package, for example), move to cheaper plans with commercials (ugh) or just drop the services you watch least. Pick a maximum monthly price ceiling and stick to it — at this point, most people don’t need more than two or three services anyway.

If you’re frustrated by paying more for less, and want to make a point, cancelling a service is the one way that companies will take notice. Streaming services hate churn (adding and dropping services month-to-month) because it lowers their subscriber base and forces them to raise their marketing costs to win you back. As a consumer, it’s really your only weapon.

Don’t like how Max keeps removing older shows? Dump it. Finding yourself watching less and less Disney+? Ditch it. It’s satisfying, it’s economical and you can always sign up again in the future.

One benefit of streaming services is they’re a lot easier to cancel than cable. With prices soaring, now’s the time to be brutal in winnowing your subscriptions. A churn strategy takes some planning, but it pays off. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of the month.

Each month, this column offers tips on how to maximize your streaming and your budget, rating the major services as a “play,” “pause” or “stop” — similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold or sell, and picks the best shows to help you make your monthly decisions.

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in October 2023, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee:

Netflix ($6.99 a month for basic with ads, $15.49 standard with no ads, $19.99 premium with no ads)

After a ho-hum past few months, Netflix

is rolling out a more robust lineup in October. Which is nice, because no other streaming service is.

After a two-year layoff, the French heist thriller series “Lupin” (Oct. 5) returns for its third season. Omar Sy stars as a master thief who’s now on the lam, and he carries the show largely on his charisma. It’s a fun one, and a welcome return for viewers.

But the big-name show of the month is “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Oct. 12), from horror hit-maker Mike Flanagan (“The Haunting of Hill House,” “Midnight Mass”). The miniseries, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story, combines Gothic horror with a modern twist, as the corrupt CEO of a family-owned and scandal-plagued pharmaceutical company is forced to face demons from his past as his family members keep dying, one by one, in increasingly gruesome ways. The sprawling cast includes Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish, Carl Lumbly, Carla Gugino, Rahul Kohli, Mark Hamill, Henry Thomas and Mary McDonnell. This should be one to watch, if for nothing else than to finally see a Sackler-like family get their comeuppance.

Also on the way: the seventh seasons of the raunchy animated adolescent comedy “Big Mouth” (Oct. 20) and the Spanish high school soap “Elite” (Oct. 20); “Pain Hustlers” (Oct. 27), a meh-looking satirical crime drama starring Emily Blunt and Chris Evans as scheming pharmaceutical reps; and the nature documentary “Life on Our Planet” (Oct. 25), narrated by Morgan Freeman.

More: What’s new on Netflix in October 2023 — and what’s leaving

And you may have missed it, but Netflix snuck in a new season of “The Great British Baking Show” at the end of September. New episodes stream every Tuesday, and feature new co-host Alison Hammond, replacing Matt Lucas, who always seemed out of place.

Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.

Play, pause or stop? Play. Between some good-looking new shows, fresh eps of the “Great British Baking Show” and recent additions such as “Sex Education” (though its final season is underwhelming) and HBO’s classic “Band of Brothers,” Netflix is once again a must-have.

Max ($9.99 a month with ads, or $15.99 with no ads)

After a dismal September, Max has a better October lineup, with Season 2 of the beloved pirate comedy “Our Flag Means Death” (Oct. 5), starring Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi as wildly different ship captains involved in a star-crossed romance; Season 2 of “The Gilded Age” (Oct. 29), Julian Fellowes’ “Downton Abbey”-esque costume drama set in 1880s New York high society, with a sprawling cast that includes Carrie Coon, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Baranski, Morgan Spector and Louisa Jacobson; and the fourth and final season of the DC superhero dramedy “Doom Patrol” (Oct. 12).

Notably, Warner Bros. Discovery’s

Max is launching its live-sports tier — the unfortunately named Bleacher Report Sports — on Oct. 5, just in time for the MLB playoffs and upcoming NBA season. The add-on tier will be free for all subscribers through February, when its price will shoot up to $9.99 a month.

Also: What’s new on Max in October 2023 — and what’s leaving

This is also your last chance to watch a bunch of AMC shows that are getting a two-month promotional run on Max: “Fear the Walking Dead” Seasons 1-7, “Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire” Season 1, “Dark Winds” Season 1, “Gangs of London” Seasons 1-2, “Ride with Norman Reedus” Seasons 1-5, “A Discovery of Witches” Seasons 1-3, and “Killing Eve” Seasons 1-4 will all leave Oct. 31. Do yourself a favor and at least watch “Dark Winds.”

One more hidden gem to discover: Season 3 of the British rom-com “Starstruck,” which landed Sept. 28. It’s utterly charming and unwaveringly romantic, with literal LOL moments and some of the most swoon-worthy banter in recent years. Catch up with all three seasons, it’s an easy binge that’s well worth it.

Who’s Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. And now, unscripted TV fans too, with a slew of Discovery shows.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. It’s an exceptionally weak month for streamers, but Max’s lineup — especially with the addition of live sports and its deep library — makes it one of the least weakest.

Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month, or $8.99 without Prime membership)

Prime Video has a fine lineup in October. Not great. Not terrible. But very OK.

“Totally Killer” (Oct. 6) looks to be a cleverer-than-most spin on a horror trope, as Kiernan Shipka (“Mad Men”) stars as a 17-year-old who travels back in time to 1987 to stop a serial killer before he can start a slaying spree that terrorized her mother (Julie Bowen).

Greg Daniels’ existential comedy “Upload” (Oct. 20) is back for its third season of rom-com exploits in a digital afterlife, thanks to uploaded consciousness. (Disclaimer: I liked Season 1, but can’t for the life of me remember if I ever watched Season 2, which doesn’t bode well, but perfectly fits this month’s “meh it’s OK” theme.)

Meanwhile, Amazon’s

free, ad-supported channel, Freevee, has the second season of “Bosch: Legacy” (Oct. 20), the “Bosch” spinoff starring Titus Welliver as a private investigator in L.A., while his daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) charts her own path as a police officer. As gritty detective shows go, it’s solid.

Prime Video also has a decent lineup of NFL Thursday Night Football“The Burial” (Oct. 13), a funeral-home drama movie starring Oscar-winners Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones; all 11 seasons of the classic sitcom “Frasier” (Oct. 1), just in time for the reboot on Paramount+; as well as new eps every week of “The Boys” spinoff “Gen V” and the season finale of “The Wheel of Time” (Oct 6).

See more: Everything coming to Amazon’s Prime Video and Freevee in October 2023

It’s also a good time to dig into Prime Video’s extensive library, before commercials come early next year. In an obnoxious move, rather than add an ad-supported tier at a lower price, Amazon will subject all subscribers to commercials — unless they pay an extra $3-a-month ransom. Commercials will be especially annoying on Prime’s more cinematic series, so watch great-looking shows like “I’m a Virgo,” “Dead Ringers” and “The English” interruption-free, while you still can.

Who’s Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.

Play, pause or stop? Pause. There’s no a compelling reason to start a subscription now, but if you already have one, there’s probably enough to watch.

Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $13.99 with no ads, starting Oct. 12)

After a hiatus of more than two years, Marvel’s “Loki” (Oct. 5) is finally back for its second season. The new season finds the eponymous god of mischief (played by Tom Hiddleston) bouncing across the multiverse in a battle for free will while trying to elude agents of the mysterious Time Variant Authority. Season 1 of “Loki” was one of Marvel’s better TV adaptations, and hopes are high that Season 2 can recapture that sense of chaotic fun. Owen Wilson returns as TVA agent Mobius, and Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) joins the cast, which also features Jonathan Majors as big bad Kang the Conqueror, which is… problematic. Disney is reportedly still planning for Majors to play a key role in “Loki” and the next phase of “Avengers” movies despite his arrest on assault charges earlier this year, which prompted troubling allegations of past physical and emotional abuse toward women. (“Loki” had already finished filming prior to his arrest.)

Disney also has “Goosebumps” (Oct. 13), about a group of high school friends fighting supernatural forces as they uncover long-buried secrets about their small town in this series adaptation of R.L. Stine’s hugely popular series of spooky novels. (It’ll also stream on Hulu.)

The “Star Wars” spinoff “Ahsoka” has its season finale Oct. 3, while ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” will stream every Tuesday.

Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For people not in those groups, Disney’s

 library can be lacking.

Play, pause or stop? Pause. The price of ad-free Disney+ jumps by $3 a month starting Oct. 12 — how much do you or your family really want to watch “Loki” and “Goosebumps”? It’ll be worth it for some, but an opportune time to cancel for others.

Hulu ($7.99 a month with ads, or $17.99 with no ads, starting Oct. 12)

Hulu has been on a fantastic run since the start of summer, but all good things must end. And it happens to coincide with a $3-a-month hike to its ad-free subscription.

October’s lineup is weak, and heavily weighed toward Halloween-themed fare, such as Season 2 of FX’s spinoff anthology “American Horror Stories” (Oct. 26); the Stephen King thrillers “Rose Red” (Oct. 1) and “The Boogeyman” (Oct. 5); the Starz horror series “Ash vs. Evil Dead” (Oct. 1); the body-horror movie “Appendage” (Oct. 2); and “Goosebumps” (Oct. 13), a live-action adaptation of R.L. Stine’s bestselling kids’ book series (which will also stream on Disney+).

Non-horror shows include new seasons of Fox’s “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers” (all Oct. 2), and Season 2 of the comedy “Shorsey (Oct. 27), the “Letterkenny” spinoff series about minor-league hockey that has a surprising amount of heart to go with its absolutely filthy dialogue.

For more: What’s coming to Hulu in October 2023 — and what’s leaving

As an added bonus, all five seasons of ABC’s 1980s detective-agency rom-com “Moonlighting” (Oct. 10), starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, will stream for the first time ever (legally at least). If I remember correctly, there were some really high highs but also some really low lows — but it’ll be worth checking out, for nostalgia if nothing else.

There are also new eps every week of “The Golden Bachelor” and “Bachelor in Paradise,” the season finale of “Only Murders in the Building” (Oct. 3) and the series finale of “Archer” (Oct. 11). And if you missed it, all three seasons of “Reservation Dogs” are there and just begging to be watched, or rewatched. (It’s about as perfect as a TV series could ever be, and the recently concluded Season 3 is the best thing I’ve seen this year.)

Who’s Hulu for? TV lovers. There’s a deep library for those who want older TV series and next-day streaming of many current network and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. If you’re on the ad tier, this month might be tolerable, but it’s certainly not worth $17.99.

Paramount+ ($5.99 a month with ads, $11.99 a month with Showtime and no ads)

Twenty years after ending its 11-season run (with 37 Emmy wins), the classic sitcom “Frasier” (Oct. 12) is back. Sort of. Kelsey Grammar returns in this revival as the pompous Dr. Frasier Crane, who’s moved back to Boston to be closer to his adult son (played by Jack Cutmore-Scott), who doesn’t necessarily want him there. The cast is mostly new, though Bebe Neuwirth (as Frasier’s ex-wife Lilith) and Peri Gilpin (his radio producer Roz) will reportedly guest star. David Hyde Pierce (Niles) and Jane Leeves (Daphne) will not return, however, which is a bummer since that’s where much of the original show’s laughs came from (John Mahoney, who played Frasier’s father Marty Crane, died in 2018). The jury’s out on this one — while in theory, it could be a refreshing update to a nostalgic favorite, the trailer is not encouraging.

Paramount+ also has “Pet Sematary: Bloodlines” (Oct. 6), a creepy prequel to the 2019 horror reboot; “Fellow Travelers” (Oct. 27), a decades-spanning queer love story starring Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey; and Showtime’s courtroom drama “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” (Oct. 6), the late director William Friedkin’s last film, starring Keifer Sutherland, the late Lance Reddick and Jake Lacy.

That’s on top of a live-sports lineup that includes SEC and Big Ten college football on Saturdays, NFL football every Sunday and UEFA Champions League soccer matches.

Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global

 broadcast and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. There’s a good football lineup, at least.

Apple TV+ ($6.99 a month)

It’s another slow month for Apple
highlighted by the miniseries “Lessons in Chemistry” (Oct. 13), based on Bonnie Garmus’ bestselling novel. Brie Larson stars as a woman in the 1950s whose dreams of becoming a scientist are scuttled by male chauvinism, and instead becomes the host of a TV cooking show, where she inspires housewives and fights the patriarchy. Apple is getting a reputation for getting big-name stars for prestige-type series, only for the shows to fizzle out and quickly be forgotten (like “Mosquito Coast,” “Hello Tomorrow” and “Dear Edward,” for starters). I have yet to see any marketing for this series, and it would not be a surprise for someone to ask six months from now: “Wait, Brie Larson was in an Apple show?”

There’s also a new documentary from Errol Morris, “The Pigeon Tunnel” (Oct. 20), about the life of spy-turned-writer David Cornwell, aka John le Carré; and “The Enfield Poltergeist” (Oct. 27), a four-part docuseries about the supposed real-life haunting that inspired “The Conjuring 2.”

Apple’s biggest title will be on Oct. 20 in movie theaters, with the wide release of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the spectacular-looking historical drama about a series of mysterious killings of Osage tribal members in Oklahoma in the 1920s, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro. There’s no streaming release date yet, but expect it to land on Apple TV+ after its theatrical run, possibly in November but more likely in December.

There are also new episodes every week of “The Morning Show,” “The Changeling” (season finale Oct. 13) and “Invasion” (season finale Oct. 25).

Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — although it’s getting there.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. Apple’s had a great year, but there’s just not a lot on right now. But there’s good stuff coming in November (Season 4 of “For All Mankind”) and December (Season 3 of “Slow Horses”).

Remember, you can get three free months of Apple TV+ if you buy a new iPhone, iPad or Mac. Strategically, if you buy an iPhone 15, and wait a bit to redeem the free trial, you’ll want it to extend into January.

Peacock (Premium for $5.99 a month with ads, or $11.99 a month with no ads)

It’s all about horror and sports for Peacock this October.

On the scary side, there’s Season 2 of the werewolf rom-com “Wolf Like Me” (Oct. 19), starring Josh Gad and Isla Fisher; “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Oct. 27), a horror movie based on the videogame about a troubled security guard who starts working the night shift at a cursed pizza parlor, starring Josh Hutcherson and Matthew Lillard; and the true-crime anthology “John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams” (Oct. 13).

On the sports side, Peacock has the Rugby World Cup (through Oct. 28), NFL Sunday Night Football, Big Ten and Notre Dame college football, English Premier League soccer, and a full slate of golf, motorsports and horse racing.

Meanwhile, the “John Wick” prequel miniseries “The Continental” ends Oct. 6.

Who’s Peacock for? Live sports and next-day shows from Comcast’s

 NBCUniversal are the main draw, but there’s a good library of shows and movies.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. The live-sports offerings are the only lure.

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