As everyone wants a slice of this pie, the number of available video streaming services has increased significantly over the last few years. Netflix is no longer your only choice. While this can be great for those of you who are eager to find the next TV series, it can also prove costly and confusing. Now you have to figure out which streaming video services offer the content that interests you, what budgets they have, and which movies and series are the best.
Engadget wanted that to be a simpler process so we compiled this list of top video streaming services. Our favorite selections cover all budgets and content types. Do you think that all the listed services are worth your time? If you are a serious cord-cutter who is desperate for new content, then probably not. These are the streaming services that provide the most value for money, no matter if you're an avid sports fan, classic movie buff or general streamer.
Compared to other streaming services, no one offers more high-quality content at a single price than Netflix. Pick any category you can think of and Netflix probably has something that will fit the bill. Plus, new content is released every week and as a worldwide service, Netflix is consistently adding movies and TV shows from around the globe that can change the viewing experience in ways you may not have considered (Are you sure you're not into K-Dramas, Finnish detective thrillers or British home improvement shows?).
Netflix can be found in nearly every country of the world. The app and website are compatible with most devices connected to the internet. These apps also make it one of the easiest to use services. It doesn't make it easy to pick a program to view, but it is simple to switch profiles and continue where you are. If you're heading off the grid — or onto a plane — then you can easily download most (but not all) of its content to watch on your iOS or Android device.
It's a bit more difficult to get a taste of Netflix if you don't already have Netflix or someone else to share your login. Netflix has ended its trial period for the US in recent years. It is important that you have all of your data before creating an account.
Keep in mind that even if your account has been closed, you might see a completely different service than what you saw two, five or ten years ago. To remain the leader in subscription streaming, it has been necessary to adjust to a constantly changing content mix and plan to continue to be the best.
There are three types of Netflix that you can subscribe in the US. They all offer unlimited access to the exact same content and can be used on the same device. There are no advertisements, they don't include ads, and you have the ability to cancel them or pause them anytime. It is mainly down to the quality of pictures and how many streams are allowed that makes the difference between Standard ($15.50/month), Premium ($20/month) and Basic ($10.
The Basic package offers 480p (aka DVD quality) and one stream. The Standard package is for those who want to view streams in HD, and have the option to stream up to 2 streams simultaneously. The Premium package is recommended for those who share an account or own a 4K TV. You can watch content in the highest quality available going all the way up to 4K/HDR (F1 Drive to Survive, Stranger Things and Altered Carbon are some of my favorites at the level) and have four streams at once on one account.— Richard Lawler, Senior News Editor
Amazon Prime Video
If you think of Amazon's Prime Video package as a Netflix-lite, or even if you've only used it once or twice then you may be underestimating the options available. The ad-free (other than trailers) subscription service is available as part of Amazon Prime, which you can purchase for either $15 per month, or $139 annually. While the subscription started out as a way to get free shipping on more purchases, Amazon has tacked on benefits that extend across books, music, games and even groceries. If you'd prefer to get Prime Video only, it's available as a standalone for $9 per month.
The video service is what we'll be focusing on. It offers a mix of catalog and original content, much like Netflix. Amazon Prime's original content has been increasing in recent years with series such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and highly-acclaimed genre content like The Boys or The Expanse.
The list of places you can stream Amazon Prime Video rivals Netflix when it comes to streaming. It's almost an automatic assumption that smart TVs and streaming boxes are part of Amazon Fire TV. Are there game consoles? Check. Check.
Amazon has an impressive selection of 4K/HDR content, and it will not charge extra to access this content. The same goes for simultaneous streams — Amazon's rules say you can have up to two running concurrently. Amazon supports offline viewing of downloaded content on both Android and iOS Fire devices.
Amazon's app interface is not as user-friendly as Netflix's. Although all features exist, it is often more difficult to use Amazon's apps than other platforms for simple tasks such as reading a summary of episodes, opening closed captions, or jumping from one show to another.
Fire TV insists that its interface be used on other platforms, rather than using the native ones. This can make the interface more difficult to use on platforms that adhere to their built-in controls like Roku.
Another thing you should consider is the fact that Amazon's video app links to its on demand store and includes access to Channels. This allows cord cutters to have a consistent experience on all devices. You can also rent or buy content that's not included in a subscription. Amazon Channels allows you to manage your subscriptions for Showtime, Paramount+, Britbox and other channels.
Last, but certainly not least: Amazon offers a Thursday night NFL game that isn't available on Netflix or Hulu. Prime Video now hosts Thursday Night Football exclusively, beginning with the 2022 season.
In 2020, HBO decided to take the fight to its streaming competitors with HBO Max. It supplanted the existing HBO channels, as well as streaming via HBO Go or HBO Now by refocusing on original content and rebuilding the service for the modern era. HBO Max has the advantage of linking to one of the deepest (and best) content libraries available, drawing from the premium cable channel's archives, the Warner Bros. vault, Studio Ghibli, Looney Tunes, Sesame Street and Turner Classic Movies.
If you pay for HBO from one of the major TV providers, then congratulations — you probably already have access to the full HBO Max experience. Click on the button below to activate your account. You can also subscribe via the internet. HBO Max offers a 7-day free trial. It costs $15 per year (or $150 per annum) for the no ads tier.
A new ad-supported plan was just launched by the company. It costs either $10 per month, or $100 annually. You won't have the ability to save content for offline viewing. HBO Max currently offers only 4K HDR streaming of certain content. Only subscribers to the ad-free package can view it. You can stream up to 3 streams at once and you have the option of creating individual profiles.
HBO Max launched on more TV channels and is now available on Roku and Apple TV as well as Android TV and Samsung. It can be streamed via browsers, Sony or Microsoft game consoles and mobile apps for Android and iOS. You can also use AirPlay or Google's Cast to make it compatible with other smart TVs than those listed.
HBO Max includes exclusive content that Warner pulled back from Netflix, Amazon, and other providers, such as full series of Friends or The Fresh Prince. It also contains DC Universe movies and TV series. The HBO library is impressive, including Game of Thrones and The Wire, as well as older content like Band of Brothers or Flight of the Conchords. The company is also investing in new content for HBO Max like House of the Dragon, a Game of Thrones spinoff and a series that's based on the Last of Us videogame.
As a cost-cutting measure, HBO Max recently cancelled several shows in advance of the Discovery+ merger. This is putting kid and family content first, which has led to the elimination of Sesame street spin-offs as well as a few Cartoon Network titles. Scoob and Batgirl movies have been axed!Holiday Haunt was also canceled. These changes aside, HBO Max continues to have one of the most extensive content collections of any streaming service. It is worth considering. — R.L. R.L.
Hulu started out as a bit of a curiosity — a joint venture by NBC, News Corp and a private equity firm to compete with Netflix by offering new episodes of TV shows. Then, after Disney joined up in 2009, bringing along its content from ABC and the Disney Channel, Hulu became a streaming network worth paying attention to. Today, Hulu's focus is still on recent TV episodes, but it also has a strong library of original series and films (like The Handmaid's Tale and Only Murders in the Building), as well as an archive of older TV and movies that often puts Netflix to shame.
After 21st Century Fox's acquisition, Disney now owns the majority of Hulu. This makes Hulu less collaborative between media companies. Although Comcast offers NBCUniversal content, it has the option to buy its shares from Disney as soon as 2024. It's just another feather in Disney+'s growing digital empire. This may be bad news for streaming services overall, but subscribers can still look forward to more high-quality content like the FX series that Hulu launched earlier in the year.
Hulu subscriptions begin at $7 per month or $70 per year with ads. For $13 per month, you can upgrade to an ad-free subscription. This is worth it for TV lovers who are serious about their television. Live TV is more costly, at $70 per month for ads, and $76 per month for ad-free. However, you get Disney+, ESPN+, and other services included. Hulu lets you stream from two devices at once, as well as downloading some content to view offline. Subscribers to Live TV can pay $10 per month for unlimited streaming from home and up to three mobile devices.
Hulu is one of the most popular streaming services, and you will find it everywhere. The company has been slow to adopt newer home theater technology, though — we're still waiting for surround sound on Apple TV and many other devices, and there's no HDR at all. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor
Disney+ came out swinging, leveraging all of the company's popular brands, like Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel. It's your one-stop-shop for everything Disney, making it catnip for kids, parents, animation fans and anyone looking for some classic films from the likes of 20th Century Pictures. And unlike Hulu, which Disney also owns, there aren't any R-rated movies or shows that curious kiddos can come across.
Disney+ is quickly becoming a family favorite due to its new emphasis on streaming. It's $8 per month, or $80 per year. This is a far cheaper option than having to wrangle the children for the movie night (or buying one of Disney's expensive Blu-rays). It can be bundled with ESPN+ or Hulu at $14 per month. Verizon FiOS customers and Verizon mobile subscribers can get Disney+ and Hulu for no cost.
Disney+ allows you to stream four streams simultaneously and lets you also download movies and shows for offline viewing. This is especially useful if you have a toddler who needs to be listened to while driving and no internet access. I can assure you that. Access Disney+ is available on all major streaming devices and TV brands. Although the service was launched without Amazon Fire TV support, it is now supported there.
Apple spared no expense with its streaming platform, launching with high profile series like The Morning Show. While they weren't all hits initially (See you later, get it?), Apple TV+ has since amassed a slew of must-watch programming like Ted Lasso, Severance, and For All Mankind. Clearly, the iPhone maker is taking a different approach than Netflix or Disney, with a focus on quality and big celebrity names, rather than bombarding us with a ton of content. But that strategy seems to have paid off.
There are many great movies and shows available for $5 per month. If you are a regular Apple user, an Apple One plan may make sense. It bundles Apple Arcade and Music for just $15 per month. You can add your entire family to the $20 per month plan and get up to 200GB of storage. Apple also offers News+ and Fitness+ for $30 per month.
YouTube TV is a great option for cord cutters who still want to watch live TV without having to sign up for a contract. It carries over 85 different channels, so it's highly likely that you won't miss your cable or satellite subscription at all if you switch over. YouTube TV even carries your regional PBS channels, which is a rarity on most streaming services.
YouTube TV's sports section is where it shines. YouTube TV offers sports channels such as CBS, FOX and ESPN. TBS, NBC and TBS also offer TNT. It even has specific networks for sports like the MLB Network and NBA TV. For an extra $11 per month, you can opt for the Sports Plus package if specific channels such as FOX College Sports and FOX Soccer Plus. YouTube TV lost its rights to broadcast Bally Sports' regional channels, so you will not be able to get Bally Sports Detroit and Bally Sports Southwest.
A great selling point for fans of sports is the ability to choose to follow a team, and your DVR will record every game. You can also catch up on key plays if you miss a match and the DVR will automatically record all of them.
YouTube TV costs $65 per month. This is more expensive than your regular cable plan. You'll need to pay an extra $20 per month if you wish to access 4K viewing, which is only available via certain sporting events.
This is currently one of the most popular cloud DVRs. YouTube TV's DVR offers unlimited storage and allows you to view your recordings for up to nine months before they expire. You don't have to pay any DVR fees. By default, you can fast-forward or rewind the recorded content. However, YouTube TV's on-demand content does contain ads that you cannot fast-forward to.
You can also add premium channels for $3 each month such as Showtime (at $11 per month), HBO Max (15 per month), Starz (9 per month), Cinemax (10 per month), EPIX (6 per month) An Entertainment Plus bundle, which includes HBO Max and Showtime, can be purchased for $30 per month. CuriosityStream ($3 per month), AMC Premiere ($5 per month), Shudder ($6/month), Sundance Now (7/month), Urban Movie Channel (5/month), Acorn TV (6/month).
Hulu Live TV
Aside from on-demand and original content, Hulu also offers a Live TV add-on that lets you stream over 80 channels without a cable or satellite subscription. It'll cost $70 a month, but that includes access to both Disney+ and ESPN+. Pay about $6 more and you'll also be able to watch on-demand shows without any ads, which can't be said with YouTube TV. As of April 2022, Hulu's Live TV option also has unlimited DVR for up to nine months. That includes on-demand playback and fast-forwarding capabilities.
Hulu permits two concurrent streams, however you will need to pay $15 for unlimited screens and up to three remote devices. You can add premium options to your Hulu account, including HBO Max, Cinemax and Showtime.
Hulu's Live TV Service is a fantastic option for sports lovers. It has access to channels such as CBS, FOX and ESPN. Hulu will also add NFL Network in 2021. Hulu Plus Live TV doesn't carry either the NBA TV nor the MLB Network so it is possible to miss additional sports coverage.
Without a doubt, ESPN's standalone service is the best deal in sports streaming. No one can compete with the network when it comes to the sheer volume of content. The platform hosts thousands of live college sporting events, plus MLB, MLS, NHL, NBA G League games and more. There's plenty of pro tennis as well, and ESPN+ is an insane value for soccer fans.
ESPN+, in addition to MLS matches selected games, is also the US headquarters for the Bundesliga (Germany), and EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) This is also where you can find the UEFA Nations League International competition.
ESPN has a variety of original programs and the complete catalog of 30 for 30 shows. ESPN+, the UFC's home is also available on ESPN+. Fight Nights and Dana White’s Contender Series, as well as other programs, are available on the ESPN+ app. The app also allows you to access PPV events.
This is a huge haul of sports at $10 per month. You can purchase the Disney+ bundle and Hulu (ad supported) for only $14 per month. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor
Formerly CBS All Access, Paramount+ may get the most attention for originals like Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard and The Twilight Zone, but it's becoming a sports destination as well. The app began streaming NWSL soccer matches last summer when the league returned to the pitch. CBS also announced that All Access would be the streaming home of the US women's league. Unfortunately, you can't watch every match there, but it's a start.
CBS soon added the UEFA Champions League, and Europa League soccer onto its sports lineup. Champions League, which pits teams from different countries across the continent against one another to determine who is the best in club soccer competition, is the largest. The Europa League is a similar competition, with less fame. Paramount+, the new home for Series A soccer in Italy (Italy), will now broadcast CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches. The US Men's National Team is expected to participate.
Paramount+ costs $6 per month for limited commercials and $10 per month without ads. It's not yet a top-of-the-line sports site. Paramount+ allows you to stream NFL games and others that are aired on local CBS stations from within the app. However, the network continues to add more content. It's a must-have for all soccer fans.
NBC made it clear before Peacock's debut that Premier League soccer would be available on the standalone service. What we didn't expect was that the network would put so many games there, basically forcing anyone who's more than a casual fan to subscribe. This is partially due to PL scheduling. In the US, that means you need the $5/month service and access to NBC Sports network (through cable or live TV streaming) to follow comprehensively.
NBCUniversal used a similar system in the past. One game was broadcast per slot on NBC Sports, and NBC Sports Gold served as an overflow. Gold also served as the host to Olympic and cycling sports. The Premier League has been used to promote the new Peacock service. With the current scheduling structure, more games will be streamed only.
Peacock offers replays of matches, which is a great option if your television doesn't work all day. Current games run between 7:30 AM ET and around 5 PM ET. Matches are usually held at 7:30AM to 7:30PM ET. One match is around 2:30 or 3:30PM.
Peacock will also cover the US Open tennis and NFL Wild Card games. A few sports talk programs are also available free to users, with the ability for paid subscribers to access replays on-demand of Triple Crown horse racing as well as other topics.
The Criterion Channel
While it's easy to find modern films on Netflix and other streaming services these days, classic cinema is often tougher to find. FilmStruck tried to solve that problem, but it couldn't find a large enough audience to survive. Now there's the Criterion Channel, which delivers a rotating array of its cinephile-approved library for $11 a month or $100 a year. (Where else can you stream something like the incredible ramen noodle Western Tampopo?)
This service is for movie fans: There are commentary tracks and conversations with directors and writers, as well as some special features. Criterion Channel does an even better job curating viewing choices than any other service. For example, its double features combine thematically related films like Phantom Lady or Variety. Its editors also make it simple to locate all films by a single director for all you auteur theory enthusiasts.
Although it is more expensive than Hulu or Disney+, The Criterion Channel offers access to an extensive library of content that is far better than streaming TV. It's possible to watch up to 3 devices simultaneously, as well as offline viewing for Android and iOS. You can also stream major streaming devices such as Roku, Amazon, and Apple. However, TVs are limited to Samsung's Tizen-powered televisions. Due to licensing restrictions, The Criterion Channel can only be accessed in the USA and Canada.
Sometimes, a good horror movie is the only way to deal with the constant anxiety of a global pandemic, a potential climate apocalypse and the seeming downfall of modern society. If that describes your personality, it's worth taking a look at Shudder, AMC Network's streaming service dedicated to everything spooky. You'll find plenty of horror classics, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Shudder has also gotten into the original content game with unique films like Host, which takes place entirely over a Zoom call.
Shudder won't appeal to everyone if you aren't a fan of horror. For horror fans, there's plenty to explore. It's free to try for 7 days. After that, it costs $6 per month or $57 annually. Shudder can only view one stream at once, and it doesn't support offline viewing. Although Shudder is available on most streaming platforms, it is not yet supported on smart TVs.