For years, Bell Media’s Crave was the basic cable of streaming services, stocked with an anemic supply of ’90s network dramas (no shade, West Wing), old HBO series (remember Band of Brothers?) and The Big Bang Theory in its entirety. It was a last resort — the place you’d desperately turn when you finally ran out of things to watch on Netflix. But late last year, Crave got a quiet-yet-mighty makeover, loading up with addictive goodies galore and establishing itself as a worthy rival for Netflix. We suffered through a flew slothful weekends on the couch, Cheetos in hand, to take stock of both platforms and determine which one reigns supreme.
Which has the better movies?
The case for Netflix: On the basis of sheer volume, Netflix has the edge, with hundreds of titles squirreled away in its back catalogue and new movies streaming in every month. Many of the new releases are the kinds of things you’d watch on a transatlantic flight (we’re looking at you, Book Club and I Feel Pretty), though a few recent additions — A Quiet Place, Brooklyn, all the Harry Potter movies — show some fighting spirit.
The case for Crave: Crave’s relative newness puts it at a disadvantage: it only has a fraction of the collection Netflix has managed to accrue over the past few years. But the ones it has are truly excellent. We’re talking blockbusters (the fizzy, feminist Ocean’s 8), Oscar faves (La La Land! Call Me By Your Name! Get Out!) and indie treasures (Lady Macbeth, starring future A-lister Florence Pugh, will destroy you).
The winner: Crave.
Which has Game of Thrones?
The case for Netflix: None. There is no case. The closest Netflix comes is The Last Kingdom, which looks like GoT if you squint, but lacks White Walkers, dragons and, of course, White Walker dragons.
The case for Crave: You’ve come to the right place. Not only will Crave stream new GoT episodes in April, but it also has the entire archive, which means you have time to relive every throat slash, castration and child poisoning before the final season airs.
The winner: Crave, duh.
Which has better TV shows?
The case for Netflix: Aside from its shameful dearth of grisly high-fantasy epics, Netflix delivers a superb selection of bingeables. It’s the go-to source for TV comfort food, with hundreds of episodes each of Friends and The Office, and keeps up to date with the buzzy network shows, streaming seasons of This Is Us, The Good Place and RuPaul’s Drag Race. But where Netflix excels, of course, is in its original programming — weird, wonderful, endlessly watchable shows like Bodyguard (a terrorism thriller starring Game of Throne’s Richard Madden), Russian Doll (a postmodern Groundhog Day starring Natasha Lyonne) and Big Mouth (the hysterically gross coming-of-age cartoon voiced by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney).
The case for Crave: It depends how much you like HBO. The premium cable network is Crave’s major source of TV content and, fittingly, there’s a huge selection of classics from the golden age of 2000s TV — it’s the perfect place to hunker down and plough through The Wire or The Sopranos if you never got around to them. Otherwise, many of the streamable series are from CTV, Bravo and Bell’s other channels. There are a few intriguing options — you should watch Killing Eve immediately—but nothing near the breadth and depth of Netflix’s stash.
The winner: Netflix.
Which has better documentaries?
The case for Netflix: The strange and lurid true tales on Netflix run the gamut from prestige storytelling (don’t miss the cult caper Wild Wild Country) to gorgeous food porn (hi, Chef’s Table) to trashy true crime (Abducted in Plain Sight is utterly batty). The Netflix brass is wise enough to realize that their viewers want the same things from their documentaries as they do from their scripted shows — propulsive narrative, memorable characters and the kinds of holy-crap moments you can’t resist tweeting.
The case for Crave: The docs you’ll find on Crave are the kinds you’d see on a film festival lineup — a feature about the life of Sandra Bland, the African-American woman who mysteriously died in a jail cell in Texas, for instance, or a bird’s-eye-look inside the New York Times during the Trump era. The titles here are artful, smart and zeitgeisty, albeit more intellectually demanding than most of the Netflix slate.
The winner: Netflix for fun, Crave for gravitas.
Where can I find the best CanCon?
The case for Netflix: Netflix gets points here for making its Canadiana easy to find (both the TV and movie verticals have a special category devoted to homegrown productions). The best way to show your patriotic pride on any streaming platform is to spend a weekend gorging on Schitt’s Creek, starring the wiggly-browed father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy. It’s not only the funniest Canadian shows in history, it’s possibly the funniest show on TV right now, with accolades from the New York Times, Vulture and a Critic’s Choice Award nomination. Other solid bets: the charming Kim’s Convenience, the Oscar-nominated thriller Incendies and the Toronto-set romcom The F Word.
The case for Crave: Well, Crave has other good qualities. The Canadian selection here is both slim and kinda lacklustre: the most famous title on the list is, uh, Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.
The winner: Netflix.
Which is the best deal?
The case for Netflix: We still remember those halcyon days when a Netflix subscription was a measly $9. It’s now going to set you back $14/month, but that still seems like a steal, especially when you take the bounty of original content into account.
The case for Crave: A basic Crave subscription is only $10, but that doesn’t include new HBO episodes or the top-tier movie selections. For the good stuff, you’ll need to shell out an extra $10 ($20 total) We’d argue it’s worth it for Game of Thrones alone.
The winner: Netflix.
The final verdict
Crave has put in a good fight: its collection is buzzy and surprising and of the moment, and while it’s scantier than Netflix, there’s hardly a clunker to be found (though we still can’t forgive Bon Cop Bad Cop 2). But Netflix remains the ruling juggernaut of the streaming industry, packed with a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of titles for every taste — and it costs less than what you’d pay for a movie and popcorn at Cineplex.
The winner: Netflix.