As the calendar flips to 2024, the streaming world looks more expensive and less expansive than a year ago.

Changes are everywhere: Most of the major streaming services have raised prices over the past year; Amazon is adding commercials to Prime Video in January; corporate consolidation is looming; and there are significantly fewer shows being made as companies look to cut back and focus on the bottom line.

Consumers need to adapt. While there are still blockbuster, must-see series on the way (such as Apple’s “Masters of the Air”), there’s less that’s worth splurging on — at least until proven worthy (like Max’s “True Detective: Night Country” and Paramount’s “Sexy Beast”).

That’s where a strategy of churning — that is, adding and dropping services month to month — comes in. It takes some planning, but pays off in monthly savings, since there’s no use paying for a service you hardly watch anymore. 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 January 2024, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee:

Apple TV+ ($9.99 a month)

More than two decades after “Band of Brothers” and 14 years after “The Pacific,” producers Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are back with their third epic World War II miniseries, “Masters of the Air” (Jan. 26). Austin Butler (“Elvis”) stars, alongside a sprawling cast that includes Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Callum Turner (“Fantastic Beasts”) and Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”), in the true story of American airmen undertaking an incredibly perilous bombing campaign over Nazi Germany. The nine-episode series is based on the bestselling 2007 book of the same name by Donald L. Miller. “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” — both of which originally aired on HBO and are now also on Netflix — were spectacular (there’s a strong argument that “Band of Brothers” is the greatest TV miniseries ever made), and “Masters of the Air” should be one of the highlights of the TV year.


also got “Criminal Record” (Jan. 10), a British crime-thriller series starring Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who”) and Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”) as detectives squaring off with each other over an old murder case.

There are also new episodes of “For All Mankind” and “Monarch: A Legacy of Monsters” (both season finales Jan. 12), and with Oscar nominations looming, Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” should finally become available to stream.

Meanwhile, the dysfunctional-spy thriller “Slow Horses” just concluded its third season, which may have been its best — and most cynical — yet.

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? Play. Even though its price has soared, Apple is still cheaper than most, and it still delivers value this month. (Remember, you can get three free months of Apple TV+ if you buy a new Apple device.)

Hulu ($7.99 a month with ads, or $17.99 with no ads)

Disney+ has a new Marvel series, “Echo” (Jan. 9), and for the first time will share it in full with sister streaming platform Hulu. The super-violent revenge story is probably a better fit for Hulu’s more adult audience anyway. Alaqua Cox stars stars as Maya Lopez (first introduced in Marvel’s “Hawkeye” in 2021), a ruthless mob enforcer — who happens to be deaf and has a prosthetic leg — whose violent past catches up to her, and she must return to her hometown and reconnect with her Native American roots in order to move forward. While Charlie Cox (“Daredevil”) and Vincent D’Onofrio make appearances, the cast is largely Indigenous, including Zahn McClarnon (“Dark Winds”), Devery Jacobs (“Reservation Dogs”) and Chaske Spencer (“The English”). After a string of disappointing and muddled Marvel shows, this much darker take, featuring a smaller-scale plot, could be a welcome change of pace for the MCU.

Hulu’s also got “Death and Other Details” (Jan. 16), a mystery series set on a cruise ship, starring Mandy Patankin (“Homeland”) as a master detective and Violett Beane (“The Flash”) as a murder suspect trying to clear her name; “Self Reliance” (Jan. 12), a comedic thriller written, directed and starring Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) as a guy in a “Most Dangerous Game”-like reality series where he’s being hunted by assassins; and next-day network shows like Season 5B of Freeform’s “Good Trouble” (Jan. 3), Fox’s “The Floor” (Jan. 3) and “The Great North” (Jan. 8), the long-delayed Emmy Awards (Jan. 16), and ABC’s “The Golden Wedding” (Jan. 5) and a new season of “The Bachelor” (Jan. 23). There’s also the last few eps of the brilliant Season 5 of “Fargo” (finale Jan. 17).

Deeper dive: If you like dark comedy, check out “Such Brave Girls,” a pitch-black British sitcom about a dysfunctional single-parent family, starring Kat Sadler and Lizzie Davidson as sisters living with their mother, played by Louise Brealey (“Sherlock”). Dealing with fun topics like depression, suicide, family trauma and abortion, it’s cringey, filthy and absolutely hilarious.

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? Play. But only for the cheaper, ad-supported plan. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but not $18-a-month worth of goodness.

Netflix ($6.99 a month for basic with ads, $15.49 standard with no ads, $22.99 premium with no ads)

There’s a promising grab-bag of additions to Netflix in January.

The most intriguing of the bunch may be “Griselda” (Jan. 25),  a six-episode miniseries starring Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”) as real-life Miami-based drug lord Griselda Blanco, who became known as the “Godmother of Cocaine” in the late 1970s and early ’80s. It comes from the creative team behind Netflix’s outstanding “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico,” and has the potential to be very good.


also has “Good Grief” (Jan. 5), a dramatic feature written, directed and starring Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”) as a man navigating grief after the death of his husband; “Society of the Snow” (Jan. 4), a harrowing Spanish-language thriller about the survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes; and Season 8 of the always uplifting and inspiring “Queer Eye” (Jan. 24), which is the last season with design expert Bobby Berk.

More: Here’s everything new coming to Netflix in January 2024 — and what’s leaving

There’s also “The Brothers Sun” (Jan. 4), a crime-family action/comedy series starring Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once); “Lift” (Jan. 12), a heist comedy movie starring Kevin Hart; “Bitconned” (Jan. 1), a true-crime documentary about crypto startup Centra Tech; Season 2 of the behind-the-scenes tennis docuseries “Break Point” (Jan. 10); and a new season of the autism dating series “Love on the Spectrum: U.S.” (Jan. 19). Meanwhile, all six seasons of NBC’s tearjerker family drama “This Is Us” lands on Jan. 8.

Deeper dive: Netflix is adding all three seasons of the woefully overlooked addiction-recovery comedy “Loudermilk” (Jan. 1), which ran for two seasons on AT&T’s Audience Network (whatever that is) before getting picked up for a final season by Amazon in 2021. Ron Livingston (“Office Space”) stars as a recovering alcoholic and substance-abuse counselor who’s a misanthropic grump, with Will Sasso (“Mad TV”) playing his roommate and Anja Savcic (“Big Sky”) as a young addict he takes under his wing. The dialogue is sharp and scathing, and the show is surprisingly smart and heartfelt, with characters that really grow on you. Comedian Brian Regan in particular, who plays a member of the support group, steals pretty much every scene he’s in.

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

Play, pause or stop? Play. When you get Netflix, you’re paying for bulk, and there’s something there for everyone.

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

The biggest addition for Prime Video this month will be commercials, starting on Jan. 29. But rather than offer consumers a cheaper, ad-supported tier, like most other streaming services these days, Amazon

is making ads the default — and will charge an additional $2.99 a month if you want your viewing to be commercial-free. It’s an obnoxious and cynical move that makes Prime Video significantly less appealing — $15 a month for an ad-supported tier (twice as much as its competitors) is ridiculously overpriced in the current market. Amazon claims it’ll run fewer ads than traditional TV or its streaming rivals, but based on the haphazard placement of commercials on its Freevee service, viewers should be dubious. And the most galling thing: It’ll almost certainly end up as a win-win for Amazon, since most subscribers get Prime for the shopping and shipping benefits and will just suck it up when it comes to ads, rather than canceling.

Perhaps it’s the bitterness speaking, but Prime Video’s January’s lineup looks underwhelming despite some big names. Nicole Kidman stars in the six-episode limited series “Expats” (Jan. 26), an ensemble drama about a group of married women living in Hong Kong whose lives are thrown into turmoil after a child goes missing; Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) and Paul Mescal (“Normal People”) star in “Foe” (Jan. 5), a sci-fi thriller movie about a married couple whose lives are thrown into turmoil by a stranger’s proposition; and Kaley Cuoco (“The Flight Attendant”) and David Oyelowo (“Lawmen: Bass Reeves”) star in “Role Play” (Jan. 12), an action/comedy movie about a married couple in a rut whose lives are thrown into turmoil (are you noticing a pattern here?) when one spouse’s secret identity as an assassin is revealed — which also sounds suspiciously like the plot of Apple’s recent “The Family Plan.” And Kevin James has a new standup comedy special, “Irregardless” (Jan. 23).

Also: Here’s what’s new on Amazon’s Prime Video and Freevee in January 2024

There are also new episodes every week of the punch-a-minute action series “Reacher” until its season finale Jan. 19.

Dive Deeper: If you want a fun binge before Amazon’s ads set in, try the Australian dark comedy/mystery series “Deadloch.” Kate Box stars as a straight-laced small-town cop and Madeleine Sami plays a manic out-of-town detective who team up to investigate a series of murders in a coastal Tasmanian town that’s become a veritable lesbian colony. It’s mercilessly funny from the opening scene, twisty and utterly addictive as it cleverly navigates from slapstick comedy to delivering pointed messages about colonialism, feminism and toxic masculinity.

There’s also the buzzy movie “Saltburn,” which landed on Prime Video in December (its co-star, Jacob Elordi, is hosting “Saturday Night Live” in January, spurring a lot of “Who’s that?” from the olds). With a plot involving university chums and social climbing, it’s hard to avoid comparisons with “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and it’s equally hard to decide if the film is actually good or just trashy enough to be entertaining — or maybe it’s a combination of both. Provocative to a fault (there are at least three gasp-inducing scenes that serve little point other than to shock, and that’s not even counting the memorable ending), it ultimately feels empty, though it’ll certainly stick in your brain for a while. And you may never look at a shower drain the same way ever again.

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

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. There’s not much new, but it’s a good time to binge what’s been lingering in your queue before ads come, because the viewing experience is about to become a lot more annoying. Or expensive.

Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $15.99 with no ads, or $19.99 ‘Ultimate’ with no ads)

More change may be coming for Max. In early December, Axios reported debt-ridden Paramount

is in talks to merge with Max’s even-more-debt-ridden parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery
in a deal that possibly only WBD CEO David Zaslav and Paramount owner Shari Redstone may benefit from (analysts, investors and regulators would need some serious convincing). That report spurred speculation that WBD would be better off buying Comcast’s

NBCUniversal holdings, including Peacock. A deal for either could come sometime in 2024 (for tax purposes, it likely would have to wait until after April 8, marking two years since the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger closed). Whichever the merger partner, it could be disastrous for consumers and creatives, resulting in massive layoffs, cancellations, content-removal, even fewer shows and movies being made, and less competition in the media landscape, resulting in higher prices. In other words, a broken system will get even more broken.

On a more encouraging note, Max has one potential hit to offer in January: “True Detective: Night Country” (Jan. 14), the fourth installment of the crime anthology series, as Issa López takes over as showrunner from creator Nick Pizzolatto. Jodie Foster and Kali Reis star as detectives trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of eight men in a small town in Alaska, amid the oppressive winter darkness. Atmospheric and character-driven, the previous three installments have varied wildly in quality, but on the surface, everything about “Night Country” looks good. HBO hasn’t really had a must-see drama since “Succession” ended last May — this could fill that role.

Unfortunately, there’s not much else. Jason Momoa has a docuseries, “On the Roam” (Jan. 18), highlighting craftspeople; “Real Time with Bill Maher” (Jan. 19) returns for its 22nd season; and the latest season of “Rick and Morty,” which aired on Adult Swim this fall, drops in full on Jan. 22.

There are also live sports on Max’s Bleacher Reports tier, which is still free through February, with a solid slate of NBA and NHL games.

Deeper dive: Actor Andre Braugher, who died Dec. 12, was best known for his dramatic work on “Homicide” and his comedic work on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” But somewhere in the middle lies one of his best performances, in the underwatched dramedy “Men of a Certain Age,” which ran on TNT for two seasons in 2009-’11. It’s a very different role for Braugher, who usually played ultra-competent and utterly confident characters. Here he’s an anxiety-ridden, decidedly mediocre man coping with the trials of middle age — yet is still the vibrant center of the series, delivering a relaxed, lived-in performance alongside co-stars Scott Bakula and Ray Romano. It’s a terrific show worthy of a binge.

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? Stop. Even if “True Detective” is good, there’s not enough else worth the subscription price now. Try back in a few months.

Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $13.99 with no ads)

The big addition of the month is Marvel’s “Echo” (Jan. 9 — see above under Hulu). Disney+ has new, weekly episodes of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” a new season of “Bluey” (Jan. 12) and the NatGeo documentary “A Real Bug’s Life” (Jan. 24), narrated by Awkwafina, but not much else.

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? Stop, unless your kids will go ballistic. “Echo” is the best bet, and you’d get more bang for your buck watching that on Hulu, which has more selection and a better library to offer.

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

The 2000 film “Sexy Beast” is one of the best British crime thrillers ever made. It’s the story of a retired thief who gets sucked back into the game by a terrifying Ben Kingsley, and the movie’s present is deeply influenced by the characters’ pasts, most of which remain only hinted at. Not everything needs an origin story! But alas, whether needed or not, we’re getting one. “Sexy Beast,” the prequel series, lands Jan. 25, starring James McArdle (“Mare of Easttown”) as a younger Gal, played by Ray Winstone in the movie, and Emun Elliott (“The Gold”) as a younger version of Kingley’s Don, as they make names for themselves in the criminal underworld of 1990s London (which also appears to blow up the movie’s timeline, but whatever). The original movie’s writers, David Scinto and Louis Mellis, will serve as producers on the series, but director Jonathan Glazer will not return. As appealing as British gangster stories are, this one seems wholly unnecessary.

Paramount’s also got Ruth Wilson (“Luther”) as a survivor of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries in the psychological drama series “The Woman in the Wall” (Jan. 19), and a new season of the soapy Canadian air-ambulance drama “SkyMed” (Jan. 11).

On the sports side, there’s the NFL playoffs starting Jan. 13, and full slates of college basketball and European soccer.

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. Wait and see on “Sexy Beast.” Meanwhile, the live-sports lineup is petering out as the NFL season winds down.

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

“Ted” (Jan. 11), the Seth MacFarlane movie (and a sequel!) about a foul-mouthed stuffed bear, is being made into a prequel series. (Didn’t I just say that not everything needs an origin story?) You can skip it.

Meanwhile, last year’s surprise-hit competition show “The Traitors” (Jan. 12) is back for a second season, as Alan Cumming hosts a group of reality stars and celebrities plotting against each other in a Scottish castle. It’s dumb, but highly entertaining.

There’s also the return of NBC’s revived “Night Court” (Jan. 3), a slew of “Real Housewives,” and new seasons of all the “Chicago Fire,” “-Med,” “-PD” and “Law & Order” franchises.

Peacock also has the NFL playoffs starting Jan. 14, and a full slate of English Premier League soccer, golf, Big Ten college basketball and winter sports.

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. Not a lot new to see here, move along.

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