I'd cancel Disney Plus, Hulu and HBO Max in December — here's why

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With holiday shopping to do, it's fair to think about canceling streaming services such as Disney Plus — which is raising its prices in seven days. I started thinking a lot about saving money back when I canceled Netflix and came back months later. 

I'm back because the start of the month is the perfect time for the reminder nobody wants: all of your streaming services are about to charge you again. As much as Tom's Guide loves HBO Max (it's the best streaming service in our book), this is its second lackluster month in the books. January's The Last of Us release can't come soon enough. 

Editor's note: This article was published before the announcement that Strange World is coming to Disney Plus earlier than anticipated. It will arrive on Dec. 23.

And as much as the Disney Plus hike stings, there's a chance Disney could fight back against those hitting cancel. Our math shows that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is on Disney Plus either in late December (or early January). Even worse news for Disney Plus just broke: The Mandalorian season 3 release date isn't in February 2023 anymore (thankfully it's only been moved back slightly). And Hulu? Well, I'll get to them later, but the story is grim. 

Oh, and if you're looking to make the most of your Netflix account, it seems like a lot of people love Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields and Wednesday. Rumors say that Netflix's Harry and Meghan docuseries drops in December, we haven't heard word of that yet. 

All that said, this is what inspires my monthly column where I pour over the big lists of scheduled releases on five of the top streaming services. Once you get a look at what they're promised for December 2022 I hope you'll have a better idea of if you should cancel or just let the payments continue.

As I do every month, I'm breaking down what's new on Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV Plus, Hulu and Disney Plus. We won't get into the stuff they already have, as it's impossible to guess what you have (and have not) already watched. 

Peacock and Paramount Plus are rising streaming services, but not for consideration for this list as they're just not as widespread. That said, Paramount Plus is getting Top Gun: Maverick this month, which could help it up the ladder.

I'm also skipping Amazon Prime Video, because it's less of a standalone service than a Prime membership perk. 

Should you cancel Apple TV Plus in December 2022?

If you've stuck through the Apple TV Plus price hike (it's now $6.99 / £6.99/$8.99 CAD/AU $9.99 per month), you may be happy with its December offerings.

First up, we've got the second (of four) season of Slow Horses (Dec. 2), Apple's slightly-under-the-radar spy series with a sense of humor. This season, a former member of the house of spies led by Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) is found dead, and the team of misfits works together to figure out who's responsible. 

The next Apple offerings all drop on the same day: Dec. 9, 2022. This is a good thing for us: we can try them all and leave if nothing clicks. The biggest arrival is Emancipation (Dec. 9), the first big Will Smith project since The Slap. An Apple Studios production, Emancipation is based on the 1863 photos of a man called "Whipped Peter" that were taken during a Union Army medical examination. These images played a part in the public's opposition to slavery, and the film shows Will Smith portraying Peter from being taken from his family to his escape from slavery.

That same day finds the return of Apple's Little America (Dec. 9), an anthology series about the lives of immigrants in America. Season 2 looks for both humor and heart, showing how hard folks have to work when they have an uphill battle. It's written and executive produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, as well as showrunner Lee Eisenberg.

Lastly, adorable family program Puppy Place (Dec. 9) also returns for its second outing. Siblings Charles (Riley Looc) and Lizzie Peterson (Brooklyn MacKinzie) are back, and this time they're fostering more dogs.

My recommendation: Arguably on the bubble this month, Slow Horses and Emancipation are the two biggest reasons to keep Apple TV Plus this month. Still the cheapest streaming service I put on this list, Apple TV Plus is a "push" this month — I'm not make the call on keeping or canceling. 

Should you cancel HBO Max in December 2022?

And this is where I start to feel frustrated. We here at Tom's Guide love HBO Max, but its December 2022 lineup isn't that strong. Its biggest shows aren't exactly its strongest hitters, and its big Sunday night show The White Lotus season 2 (Dec. 4)  ends in the first week. So, if you missed HBO Max's $1.99 Black Friday deal, I could see you thinking twice about if the $9.99 (with ads) / $14.99 (ad-free) HBO Max is worth it.

Up first is Gossip Girl season 2 (Dec. 1) which revives the revival for another round. We'll see how Constance Billard's most drama-prone students do in a new school semester, and they've also got to deal with the return of Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg).

The most meta-holiday movie around will be A Hollywood Christmas (Dec. 1) where a young filmmaker (who makes holiday movies) has her ambitions hit a wall with an attractive Hollywood executive who's been sent to investigate if her movies are worth producing.

Sort Of season 2 (Dec. 1) continues Bilal Baig's Canadian dramedy series about surviving life while being gender fluid. All Sabi (Baig) wants is to find normal love, and they don't know how or if they'll find it. Then, a four-part docuseries Branson (Dec. 1) gives folks an intimate view of entrepreneur and daredevil Richard Branson. 

The next big return on HBO Max is His Dark Materials season 3 (Dec. 5), as the final novel in Philip Pullman's trilogy is adapted to end the series. Our heroes — Lyra (Dafne Keen) the prophesied child, and Will (Amir Wilson) the bearer of The Subtle Knife — go on a quest that nobody's previously survived, and more bad news awaits them. Even if they save the world, they'll have to make a terrible sacrifice in doing so.

The HBO Max DC show of the month is Doom Patrol season 4 (Dec. 8), and it's going to feature a new look for a fan favorite. Yes, Robotman is back to his human form, as Brendan Fraser's actual face will grace the series. And he's done so to try and prevent the end of the world, in a new season where our heroes decide between happiness and humanity's survival.

South Side season 3 (Dec. 8) hits HBO Max mid-month to show the continuing hustle-hard life of Chicago's Simon (Sultan Salahuddin) and K (Kareme Young). The comedy finds the duo balancing life as wanna-be entrepeneurs when they're not furniture repo men in their day job.

Also, some network TV comes to HBO Max, as CBS' Bob Hearts Abishola seasons 1-3 (Dec. 9) and Call Me Kat seasons 1-2 (Dec. 10) arrive. The second season of Random Acts of Flyness (date TBA) is also coming. It will see Terrance (Terence Nance) and Najja (Alicia Pilgrim) investigate the metaphysics of Black life.

Lastly, a whole lot of Discovery Plus content arrives, with Silos Baking Competition from Magnolia Network (Dec. 9), where home bakers look to make the perfect holiday cookie to win $25,000 and a place in Chip and Joanna Gaines's bakery. Joanna, Andrew Zimmern and Zoë François (Zoë Bakes) will be guest judges. Five days later Serving The Hamptons, Selling The Hamptons, Trixie Motel, and Queen Of Versailles Reigns Again (Dec. 14) arrive.

My recommendation: HBO Max's December features a lot of returning shows that got enough attention to merit a second season, but don't seem to be big hits (yet), no offense to the folks at programs such as Doom Patrol, Sort of, the Gossip Girl sequel and His Dark Materials. Sadly, this seems like a month that many won't need to keep HBO Max around.

Should you cancel Netflix in December 2022?

My fixation on canceling streaming services began when I saved money on a break from Netflix, but this month looks like a strong one for the big red streaming machine. One wonder if the secret Netflix Preview Club is helping.

And Netfilx has one title it still hasn't announced a specific date for yet: My Next Guest with David Letterman and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an interview where the former late-night talk show host in an underground Kyiv subway station. Zelenskyy, who has become famous while his country deals with an invasion from Russia, follows former U.S. President Barack Obama in the seat across from Letterman.

Netflix kicks off the month with the final episodes of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean season 1 (Dec. 1), giving anime reasons something to be happy about.

Netflix is also playing to its strength for true crime with The Masked Scammer (Dec. 1), a documentary film where we learn how French elites got swindled out of millions of Euros. The start of the month also delivers campy action, with Troll (Dec. 1), a Norwegian fantasy film where a giant rock monster terrorizes humanity.

Period piece fans may swoon over Netflix's adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover (Dec. 1), the fifth movie to come from D.H. Lawrence's novel about adultery. Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell star as the titular Lady Chatterley and her lover Oliver Mellows, and this certainly looks better than a lot of Netflix's titles that claim to know about sensuality (I'm looking at you Sex/Life).

Family holiday fun gets a mix of old and new with Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (Dec. 1) an animated adaptation featuring the voices of Olivia Colman, Luke Evans and Jonathan Pryce.

Firefly Lane season 2 part 1 (Dec. 2) is the first big returning Netflix series of the month, and it will test the friendship of Kate (Sarah Chalke) and Tully (Katherine Heigl). Part 2 of this new season is due in 2023.

If you love Robert Downey Jr., you'll probably enjoy "Sr.," (Dec. 1) where Tony Stark himself moves the spotlight over to his father, iconic filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.. A loving and warm meditation on art, aging and more, this documentary looks like a holiday-season treat that's emotional without being cloying.

And Bullet Train (Dec. 3) zips from theaters to Netflix two days later. After that, a certain kind of fan gets a treat in The Boss Baby: Christmas Bonus (Dec. 6), where we learn that Boss Baby and Santa have worked together.

Then Too Hot to Handle: Season 4 (starting Dec. 7) finds Netflix embracing its steamy reality TV side, before it swings in the other direction for the anime video game adaptation of Dragon Age: Absolution (Dec. 9).

That same day, though, we get the one Pinocchio adaptation you should pay attention to this year: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Dec. 9). While some of the characters may look odder and more ornate than those you've seen before, this amazing-looking stop-motion animation project looks truly fantastic. It features Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket, leading a cast filled with big names such as Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz and Ron Perlman.

More class warfare goes down in Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area Part 2 (Dec. 9). Then, Netflix gets its adorable anime on with Gudetama: An Eggcellent Adventure (Dec. 13) while it debuts Tom Papa: What a Day! (Dec. 13) his second Netflix special — where the comedian talks about parenting and taking care of your parents.

Up next, Sonic fans get another adaptation with Sonic Prime (Dec. 15), which isn't a part of the movies, but still looks plenty fun. And it's playing with multiversal fun, as the speedy hedgehog crosses dimensions to save and help friends. Too kid-friendly? Well, Will Arnett's back with Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery (Dec. 15), a holiday comic mystery featuring Jason Bateman and Maya Rudolph.

Then, Noah Centineo's stock rises further with The Recruit (Dec. 16). Best known for his roles in the To All The Boys I've Loved Before films, Centineo showed off a particular charm in his minor role as Atom Smasher in Black Adam. Now, he's a new lawyer working at the CIA where he's dealing with people looking to expose agents. 

Then, Netflix has a few returning series of note with Emily in Paris season 3 (Dec. 21), Alice in Borderland season 2 (Dec. 22). The former sees if the titular Emily can pull a Fred Flintstone in Paris, working for both her boss Madeline and her mentor Sylvie at the same time. The latter? Well, the danger's rising for Arisu, and escape is still not a given in this series you should check out if you liked Squid Game.

The biggest Netflix releases, though are coming at the end of the month. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Dec. 23) finds detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as a guest on a private island in Greece where a tech billionaire (Edward Norton) wants to create his own fake murder mystery to entertain his "disruptor" friends (Katherine Hahn, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr. and Kate Hudson). Except a new who-dunit takes place. Rian Johnson's done it again.

Then, we get Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical (Dec. 25) with Emma Thompson as Trunchbull and Lashanna Lynch as Miss Honey. Waiting for Henry Cavill's final run as Geralt in The Witcher season 3? Good thing Netflix has got Michelle Yeoh in The Witcher: Blood Origin (Dec. 25) to tide you over.

Then, we've got Chelsea Handler: Revolution (Dec. 27) providing some laughs from her own life from the last years, The Circle: Season 5 (Dec. 28) giving us "spot the catfish" reality TV excitement and White Noise (Dec. 30) where Netflix looks to adapt the unadaptable with Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig.

My recommendation: Netflix is loaded this holiday season. Your favorite shows may be absent, but there's enough high-profile content to keep people subscribed.

Should you cancel Hulu in December 2022?

Hulu (starting at $7.99 per month) just had a price hike, but you may not know that from its December lineup. If I didn't have it for Abbott Elementary and other programming that the likes of Sling TV don't have, I'd probably cancel it myself. 

The Good Witch of Christmas (Dec. 1), which released first in November, is a family holiday comedy starring Tom Arnold and William Baldwin, who are babysitting tykes Olivia and Liam before they meet the Christmas Witch, the one person who can help when Santa's out of commission. Hallmark movie I'm Glad It's Christmas (Dec. 1), starring Jessica Lowndes and Paul Greene, debuts that same day.

Then, Darby and the Dead (Dec. 2) is Hulu's first big release, and it stars Riele Downs as high schooler Darby Harper, who can see dead people — but can't make friends. This YA twist on The Sixth Sense has Darby haunted by the popular girl Capri (Auli’i Cravalho), who wants help and offers social success in exchange. Odd little casting decisions include Wayne Knight (Seinfeld) and Tony Danza (Who’s the Boss?).

Then, theatrical releases Gone in the Night (Dec. 2), Huda's Salon (Dec. 2) and American Carnage (Dec. 2) drop.

Hulu's next big original is all about getting one's groove back, as the reality TV series Back in the Groove (Dec. 5 - 8) brings three 40-something single women to the Dominican Republic's Groove Hotel resort, where they meet and chat up men half their age. Taye Diggs hosts.

Connect (Dec. 7) is an interesting-looking K-drama where Ha Dongsoo (Jung Haein) is an immortal known as Connect that has one of his eyes stolen by a gang of organ harvesters. Not only can he still see out of that eye, but he will use that vision to stop the killer terrorizing the people of Seoul.

Loved The Binge? That feast of indulgence is back for Hulu original It's A Wonderful Binge (Dec. 9), starring Eduardo Franco (Stranger Things' stoner Argyle) and featuring Kaitlin Olson (It's Always Sunny's Sweet Dee), Nick Swardson, Dexter Darden, Tim Meadows, Paul Scheer and Danny Trejo.

The Mighty Ones season 4 (Dec. 9) brings the microscopic animated backyard antics back for more, the CMA Country Christmas (Dec. 9) will be a cavalcade of Nashville fun that's also debuting on ABC and documentary film Retrograde (Dec. 11) gives the perspective of a "a young Afghan general and his corps fighting to defend their homeland against all odds."

Then, we've got the latest example of the peculiar phrase "FX on Hulu" with Kindred
(Dec. 13)
— which looks amazing. This FX series you can only watch on Hulu is about accidental time-traveler Dana James (Mallori Johnson), who finds herself jumping between today (where she's just moved to Los Angeles to change her life) and a 19th century plantation connected to her family tree.

Sneakerheads have a documentary about their culture with Grails: When Sneakers Changed the Game (Dec. 14), which shows entrepreneurs working with the big leagues. Former Morehouse College golf champions Earl Cooper and Olajuwon Ajanaku find an opportunity to work with Nike, as their brand Eastside Golf is on the rise.

Those who use Hulu for getting ABC content (as I do) will sing "Backstreet's back!" with Hulu for A Very Backstreet Holiday: Special Premiere (Dec. 15), for boy band fun. Similarly, ABC's live streams of The Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade (Dec. 25) and New Year’s Eve: Times Square Ball Drop 2022 live stream (Dec. 31) will also be on Hulu.

The last big Hulu release of the year is Letterkenny season 11 (Dec. 26) which finds the Hicks, Skids and Hockey Players debating chips, dogs and influencers. The church bake sale even manages to provoke controversy.

My recommendation: Apologies to the Letterkenny crowd and Taye Diggs' fans, but this set of streams seems subpar. Unless we hear big things about Kindred, cancel Hulu and save your $8 for gift shopping.

Should you cancel Disney Plus in December 2022?

Now that Andor's over, the Disney Plus price hike is arriving on Dec. 8 at the worst time for the House of the Mouse. In December. While Disney Plus previously cost $7.99 / £7.99 / $11.99CAD / AU $11.99 per month, the U.S. price is getting kicked up to $10.99 for those who want to keep the ad-free Disney plus we currently have. There's a new Disney Plus Basic tier with ads for $7.99 per month, if you want to keep that current price.

And how does Disney plan to keep us around? While Willow (Dec. 7, 14, 21, 28) and The Santa Clauses (Dec. 14) have new episodes, and The Mysterious Benedict Society season 2 finale (Dec. 7) drop, the hunt for big new titles may have you looking everywhere.

The first new content for the holiday season starts with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Dec. 2), a 74-minute animated film continuing that series and Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays (Dec. 2) brings some a cappella cheer.

Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage? (Dec. 9) shows the famous actress and singer on her way to play Madison Square Garden, the venue she's always wanted to perform at. Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again (Dec. 9) looks pretty compelling, thanks to a hilarious voice cast featuring Zachary Levi, Gillian Jacobs, Bennet Yang and Thomas Lennon.

Speaking of Disney-owned movies that are reborn without their stars (or so it seems), National Treasure: Edge of History (Dec. 14, 21, 28) stars newcomer Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela, who is taking the puzzle-solving adventurer series from Nicolas Cage as she tracks down a treasure linked to her late father.

Abbey Road Studios documentary If These Walls Could Sing (Dec. 16) may be a must for fans of The Beatles and other famous musicians. Le Pupille (Dec. 16) is a live-action short film about "innocence, greed and fantasy" from Alfonso Cuarón. And we bet many a family will tune into Encanto at the Hollywood Bowl (Dec. 28).

My recommendation: Unless Willow's charmed you, you can save money by bowing out of Disney Plus' price hike early. You'll be back in February for Mando season 3, they bet.

Streaming services in December: Highlights this month

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ServiceNoteworthy shows and moviesMonthly price
Apple TV PlusSlow Horses, Emancipation$6.99 / £6.99 / AU$9.99
Disney PlusMore Willow, Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again, National Treasure: Edge of History$10.99 (Dec. 8 on) / £7.99 / AU$11.99
HBO MaxGossip Girl season 2, Doom Patrol season 4, Sort Of season 2, $9.99 with ads, $14.99 without ads
NetflixGlass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Emily in Paris season 3, Alice in Borderland season 2, Sonic Prime, Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area Part 2, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, The Witcher: Blood Origin$15.49 / £10.99 / AU$16.99 for Standard
HuluDarby and the Dead, Back in the Groove, It's A Wonderful Binge$7.99 with ads, $14.99 without ads

The three streaming services I'd cut this month are:

HBO Max, as I said above, has a lot of smaller shows for December. You may be a fan of Doom Patrol, Sort Of, Gossip Girl's sequel or His Dark Materials, but none of these shows seems to be the hit that HBO Max needs right now.

Hulu? Well, unless you're using it for cutting the cord? You can cut it out without questioning. And Disney Plus? Willow may strike a chord with you, but the Night at the Museum animated movie and National Treasure series don't seem to be must-sees.

As always, folks, your mileage may vary. These are just my suggestions. All I ask is that you make sure you're making the most of the services you're paying for.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.