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Canada's streaming landscape has only become even more diversified in 2021. Here's how services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Crave and Apple TV+ compareSebastien Cote/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

So, another winter has come and you’re still not feeling comfortable about stepping inside a multiplex? Luckily for you, the streaming landscape has only become even more diversified since this time last year – no longer are you simply limited to whatever Netflix’s algorithm wants you to see.

To help expand your options – to an almost dizzying degree – we present an up-to-the-minute breakdown of the current Canadian streaming landscape. Prepare to drown in content over the next few chilly months – for a price.


Who is Netflix for?

Everyone, still. Netflix’s executives have said time and again that they want to appeal to as vast an audience as possible. The streamer’s only competition, its CEO once famously remarked, is sleep. Which means that you have loads of children’s entertainment, documentaries on serial killers, low-brow comedies, Mexican narco thrillers, high-prestige dramas, big-screen-ready action spectacles, controversial stand-up specials, and on and on and on. The streamer also remains the leader in producing original material, rather than relying on other studios’ back catalogues. But the results have been mixed.

How much does it cost?

Plans for Canadian subscribers start at $9.99 a month and go up to $20.99 a month (the latter including Ultra HD, and the ability to watch four different programs on four different screens at the same time).


Who is Crave for?

Anyone who tried to find something on Netflix, and failed. Typically, the newer-release Hollywood movies will end up either on Netflix or Crave, though the latter seems to have a slight edge on bigger-blockbuster fare lately thanks to an output deal with Warner Bros. The Canadian-owned Crave also offers packages with access to HBO programming and its back catalogue of shows, including most (but not all) of HBO Max originals. Crave has also gone out of its way to highlight Canadian content, which is admirable … though also probably owing to regulation, given that the service is owned by Bell.

How much does Crave cost?

The mobile plan is $9.99 and the “total” plan is $19.99; $5.99 extra if you want the Starz add-on.

Amazon Prime Video

Who is Amazon Prime Video for?

Anyone who wants free shipping with Amazon, and might have time to watch some movies, too. The streaming service is mostly intended to drive customers to shop through Amazon – it’s just basically a neat little treat for e-commerce. But there are also some solid movies to be found on the app, and some decent original programming, like the trashy-but-good superhero series The Boys. And the service has acquired a hefty number of Hollywood projects that were offloaded by Paramount over the past year, including Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse and Coming 2 America.

How much does Amazon Prime Video cost?

Amazon announced a price hike for 2022, with an annual Prime membership now costing $99 (up from $79), or $9.99 per month if you prefer not to pay all at once. Think of all the free shipping you can access while binging episodes of The Good Fight (just not the latest season, because those are only available to rent, for some maddening reason!).

Apple TV+

Who is Apple TV+ for?

The house that Ted Lasso built is for anyone with an Apple product who does not mind throwing a few bucks away each month for the promise of very expensive but not yet zeitgeist-capturing television shows (Mr. Lasso excepted). There’s also the odd Tom Hanks movie now and then (the latest is Finch, after last year’s Greyhound). Most importantly: Don’t expect a big catalogue of back titles. Because … there aren’t any. It’s all Apple originals, all the time.

How much does Apple TV+ cost?

$5.99 a month gets you everything on offer, but if you just got a new Apple product, you’ll likely get a free year’s subscription, too.


Who is Disney+ for?

Families. Disney+ is like an ultra-reliable babysitter – there’s guaranteed to be nothing on the service that might be objectionable viewing. Just keep the younger kids away from some of the more intense Marvel and Star Wars movies.

How much does Disney+ cost?

Disney this year hiked its price to $11.99 a month, or $119.99 a year.


Who is Discovery+ for?

High-brow reality-TV junkies who don’t really consider themselves into “reality TV.” Launched in Canada this past October, Discovery+ is your one-stop shop for 60,000 episodes of programs from HGTV, Food Network, TLC, OWN, Travel Channel, Animal Planet and, naturally, Discovery Channel.

How much does Discovery+ cost?

If you really want to replicate the home-viewing reality-TV experience, Discovery+ with ads is $4.99 a month. But $2 more will get you the ad-free version, with up to four concurrent streams available.


Who is Paramount+ for?

Rebranded from CBS All Access, Paramount+ is one of the more … interesting … streamers in Canada. Mostly because a good deal of the bigger programs available from the U.S. version simply don’t make it our way at the same time. (It took months for that Mark Wahlberg immortal warrior movie Infinite to make it here. Ditto The Paw Patrol Movie.) But if you really love CBS procedurals like the umpteenth versions of NCIS currently on the air, then Paramount+ might just be for you.

How much does Paramount+ cost?

It will be $5.99 a month for all the Hawaii Five-O you could possibly stomach.

Criterion Channel

Who is Criterion Channel for?

Devoted cinephiles who have already stocked their shelves with those beautiful Criterion DVDs and Blu-rays. And basically anyone who wants to stream a film made before 1983.

How much does Criterion Channel cost?

Less than a Criterion DVD, that’s for sure: A monthly subscription is $10.99 USD, or just more than $14 a month for Canadians, or $133 for year-long access.


Who is Kanopy for?

Aiming for a slightly more upper-tier audience than mass-market streamers like Netflix, Kanopy offers what it calls “thoughtful entertainment” that includes “enriching films.” Which translates to more art-house hits and undiscovered indie gems, plus a lot of documentaries.

How much does Kanopy cost?

Ah, that’s the best part: it’s free. So long as you have a membership to a library that’s partnered with Kanopy – such as the Toronto Public Library system – you get free access to a half-dozen films each month. Free access is also granted to university students and faculty.


Who is Hoopla for?

Anyone who runs through all of Kanopy’s catalogue, and is more inclined to seek out fresher art-house and genre offerings. Currently, options on Hoopla range from Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown to this year’s excellent under-the-radar Mads Mikkelsen film Riders of Justice to the decidedly low-rent Bruce Willis shlock Midnight in the Switchgrass. A true buffet of randomness.

How much does Hoopla cost?

Get ready for more great news: This one is also free! Same deal as Kanopy: It pays to get a library card.


Who is CBC Gem for?

Any fan of the national public broadcaster. Or those who usually avoid television but wouldn’t mind watching a Canadian series, documentary or movie now and then. Often, there are titles on CBC Gem licensed from abroad, too, which creates an odd sensation of international confusion when scrolling through the app. Curation has become a little more spotty over the past year, though – here’s hoping someone at the Ceeb takes tighter control of the catalogue soon. And some serious marketing dollars would help raise awareness, too.

How much does CBC Gem cost?

If you don’t mind watching a whole lot of annoying ads, then CBC Gem is free. But for a premium viewing experience, it will be $4.99 a month – that also gets you live access to CBC News Network.


Who is BritBox for?

Jointly owned by BBC Studios and ITV, the New York-based BritBox targets superfans of the comedies (Fawlty Towers, Gavin and Stacey, Are You Being Served?), police procedurals (Line of Duty, Dark Heart), and so very many mystery series (Midsomer Murders, Vera, Poirot, Miss Marple) that the British broadcast giants are renowned for. The Canadian version of the service – catalogue rights vary between regions, just as with Netflix et al. – currently boasts almost 400 titles.

How much does BritBox cost?

For $8.99 a month, or $89.99 a year, all of the Commonwealth empire is yours. Well, almost (see below) …


Who is Acorn for?

Acorn maintains its own hold on the streaming market targeted by Britbox by not being quite as, well, British. Operated by RLJ Entertainment, which is in turn owned by U.S. cable giant AMC Networks, Acorn started its life by selling British television series on VHS and DVD to North American audiences, before entering the SVOD market in 2013. But instead of focusing exclusively on British imports, Acorn zeroes in on what general manager Matthew Graham calls “a certain sensibility.” That translates to such titles as Queens of Mystery, Doc Martin, Blood; Canadian hits such as Slings & Arrows and the first three seasons of Murdoch Mysteries; and properties both new and old from the BBC (Line of Duty, Lovejoy) and ITV (Manhunt) that, owing to rights issues, don’t automatically get funnelled into BritBox. Acorn has also expanded into producing original content as well.

How much does Acorn cost?

Add $8.99 to your monthly expenses and you’ll have all the British content you could possibly desire.

Highball TV

Who is Highball TV for?

A Canadian idea, the upstart streaming service Highball TV specializes in finding underappreciated titles from the film-festival circuit and cradling them with loving, polite care. That means a lot of projects that look completely unfamiliar, but also cult-favourites such as What We Do in the Shadows and well-crafted original acquisitions such as the Canadian drama Luba.

How much does Highball TV cost?

It’s cheaper than a film festival, at $7 a month or $70 a year.


Who is Shudder for?

Anyone who likes being scared out of their wits. Shudder specializes mostly in horror-centric entertainment, with frequent dips into less-frightening but equally icky genre exercises.

How much does Shudder cost?

Ready to scream – out of joy? Plans start at $5.99 a month, or $59.99 for an annual membership.


Who is ZEE5 for?

Audiences exhausted by Western programming should start looking abroad, with their first stop being the international expansion of this India-based streamer. Offering more than 1,600 series from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, plus 4,500-plus Bollywood and Indian-language films, ZEE5 aims to be the premiere streaming home for both the South Asian diaspora and global audiences. Not to be missed: RRR, the new film from Indian action legend S.S. Rajamouli (Baahubali) and Akshaye Khanna’s Stage of Siege: Temple Attack.

How much does ZEE5 cost?

While it will eventually be $99.99 a year, there’s a special launch price of $49.99 (or $9.99 a month).

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