With the ever-growing number of streaming platforms available, choosing the best one for your entertainment needs can be a daunting task. From Netflix to Amazon Prime Video, and everything in between, there seems to be no shortage of options. Whether you're a fan of binge-watching the latest TV shows, indulging in international series, or seeking out the best horror flicks, there's a streaming service tailored just for you. In this article, we will explore the top contenders in the streaming service market, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, so you can make an informed decision on which platform will reign supreme in your living room.
Premier Choice for Original Programming
Why We Chose ItNetflix stands at the forefront of streaming video services, setting the standard for excellence. It boasts an impressive selection of content, regularly swapping out older titles for fresh additions on a monthly basis. Notably, Netflix outshines its competitors with its consistently expanding collection of high-quality, innovative original shows. The range of exceptional series offered by Netflix encompasses Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, Bojack Horseman, Dead to Me, Mindhunters, Orange is the New Black, Russian Doll, Stranger Things, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, and even original anime. Additionally, Netflix presents an array of original movies, including El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and Martin Scorcese's The Irishman. Regrettably, Netflix has recently lost some top-tier titles, such as Friends (moved to HBO Max) and The Office (streaming on NBC's Peacock).
Target AudienceNetflix caters to users who are willing to invest in a premium service at a premium price. Recently, Netflix has increased the cost of its top two subscription plans. For .99 per month, users can enjoy unlimited standard-definition streaming on a single device. The Standard tier, now priced at $15.49 per month (up from $13.99), unlocks HD content and allows streaming on two devices simultaneously. The Premium plan, priced at $19.99 per month (up from $17.99), offers four simultaneous streams and access to 4K content where available. In addition, Netflix provides a more affordable, ad-supported tier for .99 per month. However, this budget option also comes with some limitations, such as restricted access to certain shows in Netflix's library.
Users can conveniently download Netflix apps on various devices, including Chromecast, game consoles, PCs, and tablets. Moreover, users can finally disable the aggravating auto-playing previews. Notable new features on Netflix include Screen Lock for Android devices, preventing inadvertent screen taps, and enhanced parental control settings that offer greater content and profile restriction. Alongside Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Disney, Netflix is among the few streaming services that support offline downloads, 4K, and HDR streaming (now available on Macs as well). Netflix's DVD mailing service will come to an end on September 29, 2023, indicating the clear shift towards streaming as the company's primary business.
Production of exceptional original content
Well-designed apps with impressive features
Option to download content for offline viewing on mobile devices
Availability of physical media rental
Inclusion of free mobile games
Compromised ad-supported tier
Lack of transparency regarding changes in content availability
Affordability and Variety in TV Shows and Movies
Why We Chose ItNBC's Peacock provides two subscription plans: a Premium tier offering 20,000 hours of content, some live sports, and channels featuring clips; and a Premium Plus option that builds upon the Premium tier by eliminating ads during on-demand streaming. While some of NBC's popular shows like Friends and Seinfeld cannot be streamed on-demand, Peacock offers a range of other well-liked past and current shows from NBC, including 30 Rock, Cheers, Chicago Fire, Friday Night Lights, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Will and Grace, Law & Order: SVU, Superstore, and This is Us.
Target AudienceWho doesn't appreciate high-quality content at an affordable price? Peacock is gradually expanding its live sports offerings and now allows users with paid subscriptions to watch games from Sunday Night Football. Other sports programming featured on Peacock includes Premier League soccer, IndyCar coverage, and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) content. It's worth noting, however, that Peacock no longer offers a free tier for new subscribers (existing free subscribers remain unaffected for now). Though Peacock does not support 4K streaming, it does permit streaming on up to three devices per account. Only Premium Plus users can download shows for offline viewing on mobile devices. The Peacock app is available for download on a range of platforms, including Android, iOS, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, as well as PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles from the latest and previous generations.
Affordable base tier without major limitations
Extensive collection of popular movies and network shows
Flexible pricing options
Live sports coverage
Support for multiple account profiles
Inability for new users to create a free account
Frequent changes in the movie library
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Amazon Prime Video
Optimal Choice for On-Demand Shows and Films
Why We Chose ItAmazon offers access to its impressive video content through two options: a standalone Amazon Video subscription or an Amazon Prime subscription. With an Amazon Video subscription priced at .99 per month, users gain access solely to Amazon's extensive streaming video library. On the other hand, an Amazon Prime account, costing $14.99 per month (or $139 per year), not only provides access to Prime Video content but also includes various shipping and shopping benefits. In its support documentation, Amazon commonly refers to its video streaming service as Amazon Prime Video.
In recent years, Amazon has distinguished itself with an impressive lineup of original, high-quality shows, including Bosch, The Boys, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Hanna, Hunters, Tales From The Loop, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Patriot, Undone, and Upload. Furthermore, the highly anticipated $416 million Lord of the Rings series remains in progress. While Netflix boasts a more extensive content library, Prime Video has the advantage of broadcasting Thursday Night Football games, select MLB matchups, and recently, WNBA games.
Target AudienceAmazon Prime Video appeals to those who seek both subscription and a la carte options for watching shows or movies. Amazon's video library also includes numerous popular and classic films that can be streamed at no additional cost. With Amazon's recent acquisition of MGM for .45 billion, the movie selection is expected to considerably improve. Notably, Prime Video supports 4K and HDR streaming, as well as downloads for offline viewing. The service is accessible via web browsers, as well as Android and iOS devices, game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox), Smart TVs, and media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, TiVo). Users can stream up to three titles simultaneously from a single account, but streaming the same title on two devices at the same time is limited. Additionally, Prime Video now offers the option to create multiple viewing profiles per account, a relatively recent addition.
Production of exceptional original content
Support for 4K and HDR streaming
Broadcasting of Thursday Night Football and WNBA games
Options for offline downloads, multiple viewer profiles, and audio descriptions
Ability to rent or buy movies and TV shows
Continual loss of third-party content to competitors
Fewer high-quality TV shows compared to competitors
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Supreme Choice for HBO Shows and Blockbuster Movies
Why We Chose ItHBO Max reigns supreme with its extensive collection of prestigious original shows, featuring Barry, Big Little Lies, Chernobyl, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Sex and the City, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, Succession, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Westworld. Notably, HBO Max made the pilot episodes of 13 original shows available for free streaming via its mobile apps.
The service has acquired the streaming rights to several other beloved shows, including Friends (including a reunion show), Rick and Morty, and South Park. Babylon 5 Remastered is now also available to stream. In addition, HBO Max incorporates select content from other sources within the WarnerMedia universe, such as CNN, Crunchyroll, DC Comics, and Looney Tunes. To explore the full range of content available this month, refer to our article on everything coming to HBO Max.
In addition to the vast TV show selection, HBO Max presents an impressive collection of popular movies from WarnerMedia properties (Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema), as well as other sources like The Criterion Collection and Studio Ghibli. Numerous Warner Bros. movies, including Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, The Matrix Resurrections, and The Suicide Squad, are released on HBO Max on the same day they hit theaters, although Warner Bros. has transitioned back to the traditional theatrical release model in 2022, albeit with a shorter exclusivity window. Furthermore, HBO Max will go through significant changes with the Warner/Discovery merger, transforming into Max in May 2023.
Target AudienceHBO Max exclusively showcases HBO's renowned quality television shows, making it the ultimate choice for streaming this content. The subscription plan priced at $15.99 per month may be steep for some, which is why a more affordable ad-supported version is now available for .99 per month. However, this tier does not grant access to the aforementioned Warner Bros. same-day releases, 4K streaming, or offline downloads. Nevertheless, the ad experience is reasonable, with HBO Max assuring that ads will not exceed four minutes per hour and will not interrupt viewing of their own content.
HBO Max offers all the premium features found in other streaming services, including offline downloads on mobile devices, support for multiple viewing profiles (up to five), simultaneous streaming (up to three), audio descriptions, and modern apps. However, only a limited number of titles currently support 4K streaming. To maximize your HBO Max subscription, refer to our tips article on getting the most out of HBO Max. The service is accessible on mobile devices (Android and iOS), TVs (Apple, Android, and Samsung), current-generation and previous-generation gaming consoles (PlayStation, Xbox), and now Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku media streaming platforms.
Expansive catalog of popular shows and movies from multiple sources
Attractive and user-friendly apps
User profiles and parental control tools
Ad-free tier allows content downloads for offline viewing
Ultimate tier boasts extensive 4K content selection
Relatively high cost
Ad-supported tier lacks offline downloads
Potential significant changes to the content library
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DisneyThis streaming service is a comprehensive hub for all things Disney, captivating children, parents, animation enthusiasts, and anyone seeking timeless films from esteemed studios like 20th Century Pictures.
Disney made an impactful entrance, leveraging its popular brands such as Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel. It brings together everything Disney has to offer, appealing to kids, parents, animation enthusiasts, and those seeking classic films from the esteemed 20th Century Pictures. Unlike Disney's other streaming platform, Hulu, which is also owned by the company, Disney does not feature any R-rated content that may not be suitable for curious young viewers. From now on, it's all about The Mandalorian and other similar content.
With the company's renewed focus on streaming,Disney has rapidly become an essential service for families. Moreover, with a monthly subscription of (or an annual plan for ), it proves to be a more affordable alternative than organizing a family outing to the movies or purchasing overpriced Disney Blu-rays. For $13 a month, customers can even bundle Disney, ESPN, and Hulu together. Some Verizon FiOS and mobile subscribers may also enjoy the added benefit of accessing Disney, Hulu, and ESPN for free.
Disney allows for four concurrent streams and enables downloading films and shows for offline viewing. This feature proves especially valuable during long car rides with no cellular service and a distressed young child. Rest assured, Disney is available on all major streaming devices and most popular TV brands. Initially absent from Amazon's Fire TV devices, Disney can now be accessed on these platforms as well. — D.H.
YouTube TVYouTube TV presents an excellent choice for cord-cutters who desire access to live television without committing to a contract.
YouTube TV is an outstanding option for individuals who have transitioned away from traditional cable but still wish to enjoy live TV without the constraints of a contract. Offering over 85 different channels, it's highly probable that you won't miss your previous cable or satellite subscription at all if you make the switch. Unlike most other live TV streaming services, Tubi even includes access to local PBS channels.
YouTube TV truly shines in its coverage of live sports. In addition to major sports-carrying networks like CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC, TBS, and TNT, it also provides specialized sports coverage from networks such as the MLB Network, NBA TV, and the NFL Network. For an additional $11 per month, you can opt for the Sports Plus package, which offers access to specific sports channels like NFL RedZone, FOX College Sports, GOLTV, FOX Soccer Plus, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG, and Stadium. Unfortunately, YouTube TV recently lost the rights to carry Bally Sports regional networks, which means you won't have access to region-specific channels like Bally Sports Detroit or Bally Sports Southwest.
One particularly attractive feature of YouTube TV for sports enthusiasts is the ability to follow a specific team instead of always having to remember to record their games. The DVR will automatically record all games of your chosen team. Additionally, if you join a live game late, the "catch up with key plays" feature allows you to watch all the highlights up to that point, ensuring you're up to speed.
While YouTube TV comes with a higher price tag at per month, it may still be comparable to the cost of a basic cable package. If you want to add 4K viewing (currently only available for certain sporting events) and unlimited streaming, you can do so for an additional $20 per month.
YouTube TV offers one of the most robust cloud DVRs in the market. With default unlimited storage and up to nine months to watch recorded content before expiration, users can enjoy unrivaled flexibility. Furthermore, unlike other services, YouTube TV does not charge extra for DVR functionality, allowing you to rewind or fast forward through recorded content as you please. However, it's worth noting that on-demand content on YouTube TV includes ads that cannot be skipped.
The service also features a variety of premium channel add-ons available for as low as $3 per month, including Showtime, Max, Starz, Cinemax, and EPIX. You can even subscribe to the Entertainment Plus bundle, which encompasses Max, Showtime, and Starz for $30 per month. Other specialized add-ons include CuriosityStream, AMC Premiere, Shudder, Sundance Now, Urban Movie Channel, and Acorn TV. — N.L.
Best for Free Movies
Why We Picked ItTubi is a fantastic free video streaming service boasting a library of 50,000 movies and TV shows (although it's uncertain if episodes are counted individually). Within its catalog, you can find popular films like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Black Hawk Down, Donnie Darko, Legally Blonde, Memento, Minority Report, Rain Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. While its TV collection may not be as remarkable, it does consist of notable shows such as 3rd Rock From the Sun (seasons 1-5), Degrassi: The Next Generation (seasons 1-14), Hell's Kitchen (seasons 1-14), Jojo's Bizarre Adventures (seasons 1-4), Naruto (seasons 1-4), and V (seasons 1-2). It's worth mentioning that Tubi's library constantly fluctuates.
Who It's ForTubi satisfies the needs of individuals searching for a free streaming service that doesn't compromise on quality. Its web interface and mobile apps feature clean and organized designs, categorizing content neatly. One drawback of Tubi is its streaming resolution limitation to 720p. Although it is not a major issue, as some movies are only available in 540p. Moreover, Tubi does not offer offline downloads for mobile devices. However, the service allows you to keep track of the content you've watched and manage a watchlist. While the parental control tools have certain limitations, they do offer an extra layer of control.
Tubi is accessible through the web, Android, and iOS devices. It also supports media streaming devices such as Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, and TiVo. Additionally, Tubi is compatible with gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, as well as select smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio.
Vast library of movies and shows
Live TV available
Modern apps and intuitive interfaces
Parental control features included
Streaming resolution capped at 720p
No ad-free option
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Best for Sports
Why We Picked ItFubo is an excellent choice for sports enthusiasts who have cut the cord. Its base subscription plan, called Fubo Pro, is priced at .99 per month, granting access to approximately 150 channels (exact number may vary by location). For national sports events, Fubo provides access to channels such as CBS, FOX, NBA TV, NBC, and NFL Network. For international sports coverage, viewers can enjoy channels from the beIN network and Univision. While Fubo offers Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, it no longer includes CNN and other WarnerMedia channels. In terms of recent changes, Fubo added Bally Sports RSNs(Opens in a new window) to its lineup.
Fubo is not solely focused on sports, as it also offers a wide range of entertainment channels like AMC, The Food Network, FX, National Geographic, SYFY, and USA. Following the addition of Viacom channels, the Standard plan now includes content from the Discovery network, including Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and TLC. The service not only provides access to live events and programs but also offers a plethora of on-demand shows and movies.
Who It's ForSports fans require customizable options to follow their favorite teams and games precisely. Fubo allows users to supplement the base plan with add-ons, such as the Sports Plus package with NFL RedZone ($10.99 per month) and Fubo Extra (.99 per month), which adds nearly 60 channels to the lineup.
Additionally, Fubo offers exceptional DVR capabilities. The service provides 250 hours of default storage, which can be increased to 1,000 hours. Users can enjoy three simultaneous streams, with the option to expand to 10 streams through an add-on. The Lookback feature allows users to watch anything they may have missed up to 72 hours after it initially aired. The Startover capability enables viewers to watch currently airing events from the beginning, regardless of when they joined the program. Aside from web access, Fubo offers apps for Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku devices, and smart TVs. While Xbox consoles are supported, PlayStation boxes are not.
Extensive coverage of live sports and entertainment content
Reliable streaming performance
Excellent web interface
Impressive DVR functionality
Availability of some 4K content
Additional costs for add-ons and packages
Exclusion of A&E and Turner channels
Majority of live streams limited to 720p resolution
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Top Choice for Anime
Why We Selected ItCrunchyroll boasts an extensive collection of anime titles, with over 1,300 options to choose from. The platform offers popular series like Attack on Titan, Death Note, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hunter X Hunter, One-Punch Man, multiple Naruto installments, and Yuri!!! on Ice. Additionally, Crunchyroll features original shows such as A Place Further Than the Universe, In/Spectre, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. Upcoming releases include Onyx Equinox, set in Meso-America, and Meiji Gekken: Sword & Gun, taking place in Japan's 1870s. It also provides about 40 simulcast shows and a shop where users can purchase relevant merchandise and manga.
Who It's ForCrunchyroll offers a convenient and legal streaming option for anime enthusiasts who would have never had access to such content in the past. The service supports HD streaming for both free and paid accounts, although premium subscribers can enjoy an ad-free experience. While Crunchyroll could improve its interfaces, most of its content includes subtitles, and the addition of Funimation's library has strengthened its dubbed options. Crunchyroll's apps are available on various devices, including media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), mobile phones (Android and iOS), and gaming consoles (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X). The platform accommodates up to six simultaneous streams, depending on the chosen subscription, and allows offline downloads.
Vast anime library, now with Funimation dubs
HD streaming across all tiers
Extensive selection of simulcast shows
Manga and merchandise store
Some interface clutter
Limited subtitle options
Top Choice for HD & 4K Documentaries
Why We Selected ItCuriosityStream provides a vast library of informative and captivating documentary features, covering various categories such as History, Kids, Lifestyle, Nature, Science, Society, and Technology. Hosts like David Attenborough and Sigourney Weaver add to the quality of the titles available on CuriosityStream. The platform also caters to younger audiences with its dedicated kid-specific section. If you're interested in broadening your knowledge base, don't forget to explore the best online learning sites.
CuriosityStream offers two pricing tiers that provide the same documentaries, with the only difference being 4K streaming availability on the more expensive plan (.99 per month). The service supports offline downloads on mobile and is ad-free. CuriosityStream's app is accessible on mobile devices (Android and iOS), gaming platforms (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), and smart TVs.
Who It's ForWhile many streaming services offer mindless reruns, CuriosityStream appeals to those who prefer to learn, whether at home or on the go. Accessible through a library card or current university email address, CuriosityStream provides free streaming for students and library patrons. The service enables unlimited simultaneous streams per account, lacks ads, and supports IMDb-powered X-Ray overlay. However, it does not offer offline downloads on mobile devices. PBS Videos and PBS Passport, two other PBS streaming apps, are overshadowed by PBS Documentaries.
Extensive collection of titles
Impressive exclusive originals
Availability on major streaming platforms
HD or 4K quality content
Limited language options beyond English
Somewhat narrow focus
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$2.99 Per Month CuriosityStream
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Top Choice for Educational and Family Content
Why We Selected ItKanopy offers a vast collection of high-quality films and documentaries from top distribution companies like A24, Bleecker Street, HBO Documentary Films, Paramount, PBS, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. The platform features a dedicated section for children ages two and above. The only limitation of Kanopy is the monthly viewing limit, which does not apply to the content in the Kanopy Kids section.
Who It's ForKanopy proves especially valuable for students and library visitors. Accessibility is free for individuals with a library card or a current university email address. Users can enjoy unlimited simultaneous streams per account with no ads, although offline downloads are not supported on mobile devices. Kanopy allows users to record content clips for sharing on social media platforms. The service is available on the web, mobile platforms (Android, Fire OS, iOS), and media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), but not on game consoles.
Extensive collection of on-demand films and shows
Free access with a library card or university email address
Unlimited access to Kanopy Kids content
Clip and playlist creation and sharing
No limit on simultaneous streaming
Limited number of monthly Play Credit titles
No offline downloads on mobile devices
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Top Choice for Popular Documentaries
Why We Selected ItPBS Documentaries serves as an excellent source for documentary film enthusiasts, featuring titles from various distributors such as American Experience, American Masters, Frontline, Independent Lens, Nature, Nova, POV, and other independent producers. The platform is also home to the complete collection of Ken Burn's documentaries. Offerings include Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Academy Award-Nominated films like For Sama and Last Days in Vietnam, as well as nature documentaries such as Your Inner Fish.
Who It's ForPBS Documentaries is aimed at the general public, but accessibility is limited to Prime Video channel subscribers. This limitation is less of a downside because Prime Video is compatible with most platforms and supports offline downloads on mobile devices. Moreover, PBS Documentaries benefits from the IMDb-powered X-Ray overlay and has an affordable price point with no ads. The only drawback is the lack of audio descriptions for the content. PBS Videos and PBS Passport pale in comparison to PBS Documentaries.
Impressive selection of popular content
Support for offline downloads
Only accessible through Amazon Prime Video
No Audio Descriptions available for content
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Top Choice for Military Documentaries
Why We Selected ItIf you're a fan of documentaries, particularly those revolving around ancient civilizations or military history, then History Vault is the perfect fit for you. This cost-effective and on-demand streaming service offers popular titles from the History Channel, such as American Restoration, Ancient Aliens, Ice Road Truckers, Modern Marvels, and The Universe, as well as biopics of famous historical figures. If you already have a History Channel subscription via cable or live TV, you can also access many reality shows through the free History app.
Who It's ForWhether you're already a history buff or looking to develop an interest in the subject, History Vault is a great platform to explore. Although 4K streaming is not available (most titles are in either 720p or 1080p), the absence of modern features is a minor setback. History Vault's accessibility options are limited, as the app is available on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), and the web, but not on game consoles.
Extensive selection of high-quality historical documentaries
Availability on multiple platforms
Numerous original series and shows
Limited availability outside of the US
Few accessibility options
Lack of parental controls
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$4.99 Per Month History Channel
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Top Choice for International Programming
Why We Selected ItKweliTV is your go-to platform for films and shows from Africa and other global regions. With over 600 curated entries, including Africa United and Black Enuf, KweliTV offers independent and engaging content typically found at indie film festivals. Even without a subscription, you can view KweliTV's award-winning content(Opens in a new window). The platform also features a free live streaming component (unavailable on the web) with occasional ad breaks. Furthermore, users can rent individual films and shows.
Apart from the streaming library access, a KweliTV subscription brings discounts at over 35 Black-owned brands and exclusive invitations to members-only events. The platform also offers a merchandise store where users can purchase KweliTV-branded apparel and accessories.
Who It's ForKweliTV caters to anyone who appreciates extraordinary art beyond their own borders. While it supports streaming up to 1080p resolution, not all entries meet this standard. The platform lacks parental control tools but allows offline downloads on mobile platforms. KweliTV provides apps for major mobile and media streaming platforms, though console owners can only access it through the web.
Thoughtfully curated international collection
Flexible pricing options
Offline downloads on mobile platforms
Merchandise store and discounts on Black-owned businesses
Inconsistent subtitle availability
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Ideal for Media Server Configurations
Reasons for Choosing Plex
While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when searching for a video streaming service, Plex now offers a substantial collection of on-demand streaming content. This includes Crackle's complete library of movies and TV shows, as well as films from major studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Much of this content can be streamed in 1080p resolution. Although you cannot store this content on your own media server, you also don't need to allocate space for it. Plex also provides pre-programmed live TV channels, including AMC, IFC, and Tastemade, among others.
Although on-demand movies and shows are well-liked, the core functionality of Plex is still managing media servers. The software makes it easy to set up a server, offers intuitive playback apps on various platforms, and wraps everything in an easy-to-use interface. It is the only service on this list that caters to users who seek this kind of functionality. Plex may not have the same level of customization as Kodi and no longer fully supports home theater PCs (HTPCs), but it is one of the top solutions for accessing your local media library from anywhere.
Free version with capabilities
Intuitive apps available on multiple platforms
Simple setup process
Expanding library of on-demand and pre-programmed video streaming content
Limited HTPC support only through forums
Few interface themes to choose from
Removal of features such as gaming and podcasts
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Buying Guide: Top Video Streaming Services for 2023
Plex is Now Offering More Channels and ConsolidationThe competition among video streaming services has become increasingly fierce, leading some media companies to join forces. For example, CBS and Viacom have merged once again to launch Paramount, along with a bundle that includes Showtime. Warner Bros. has merged with Discovery to create a new streaming giant, which has already resulted in the cancellation of CNN, the Batgirl movie, and numerous cartoons. Given that Discovery is at the forefront of the current wave of trash TV popularity, we are quite excited. Additionally, Amazon has acquired MGM for billion, which is expected to significantly expand Prime Video's library. Crunchyroll has become the go-to anime streaming service by acquiring rivals Funimation and VRV. Disney has bundled Disney, Hulu, and ESPN to cater to all entertainment needs. Even AMC offers a bundle that includes AMC Premiere, Shudder, Sundance Now, IFC Films Unlimited, and BBC America.
The highly competitive streaming market is not without consequences. Consumers who were initially attracted to the flexibility offered by streaming services over cable now find themselves navigating a crowded and ever-changing landscape of streaming rights and new services, many of which are becoming more expensive. Live TV streaming services are also struggling to cope with the rising costs of broadcast rights from cable channel owners. The cost of nearly every one of these services has increased significantly over time.
The Importance of a CatalogAs mentioned, the success of a video streaming service is heavily reliant on the content available in its library. That is why many services are investing heavily in creating high-quality original content. Examples include Netflix's Stranger Things, Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, all of which are Emmy-winning shows. Without these standout offerings, standalone video streaming services would have a hard time competing with established entertainment giants. Several platforms have even rescued popular shows from cancellation in an effort to build an appealing library. For instance, Roku revived all the original content from the ill-fated Quibi.
In addition to on-demand video streaming services, complete cable replacement services are now just as prevalent. Some of the top live TV services, such as Hulu and YouTube TV, offer robust lineups of local, news, sports, and lifestyle channels. Others specialize in specific areas. For example, DirecTV Stream is the best option for regional sports networks (RSNs), while Philo caters to lifestyle and entertainment enthusiasts. Locast, which used to be a budget-friendly option for watching local channels, has since shut down.
Video Streaming Services: Key Facts You Should Be Aware Of
Can You Stream Sports Online?Sports fans may have concerns about being able to watch live sports after cutting the cord. However, this is simply not the case. Many of the video streaming options we've reviewed are also among the best sports streaming services. Whether you want to watch regional, national, or international sports, there is a service that will fulfill your needs. While blackouts and cancellations may still apply, these streaming options offer distinct advantages over cable, including feature-rich apps available on multiple platforms and simultaneous streaming capabilities. Take a look at our recommendations for the top NFL streaming services, best MLB streaming services, best NBA streaming services, and the top NHL streaming services.
Other Options for Video StreamingThere are also smaller, more specialized options available at potentially lower prices. For example, Crunchyroll, Hidive, and RetroCrush focus specifically on anime streaming services. If you want to reduce your monthly spending on streaming subscriptions, check out our list of the top free video streaming services. We also have an article featuring the best video streaming services for celebrating Black art.
Horror fans can rest assured that cutting the cord doesn't mean missing out, thanks to the availability of the best horror streaming services. We've curated lists of the best horror movies and scary original shows. Even Troma now has its own streaming app, providing options for fans of low-budget schlock.
For cinephiles, we have coverage of the top movie streaming services. If you prefer something more educational, our roundup of the best documentary streaming services is a great starting point. Alamo on Demand and Angelika Anywhere offer virtual versions of curated movie theaters. If you're into live theater, BroadwayHD is your best choice.
Although it may not be the first service that comes to mind, Vimeo also offers a small selection of indie films and video projects through its On Demand section. If watching people play games is your thing, Twitch is the best platform for that. Additionally, you can also consider streaming Netflix and other top video services to your game consoles.
Plex is another option for streaming your own local media content, over-the-air cable (with the right hardware), and an on-demand library that now includes Crackle's entire library (opens in a new window). Open-source software Kodi offers similar media management functionality.
For all your internet-related tasks, it is recommended to use a virtual private network (VPN), and this is particularly useful for streaming services as it can sometimes provide access to region-locked content. For example, if you connect to a VPN server in the UK from a device in the US, you may be able to watch free content from BBC TV. However, streaming services are actively cracking down on VPN usage, so we advise testing your network setup with a trial before committing to a service. Be sure to check out our guide on how to unblock Netflix with a VPN, as well as our list of the best VPNs for video streaming.
If you're considering cutting the cord, take a look at our analysis of the most popular services to understand what you can expect. Don't fall into the trap of paying more for video streaming services than you did for cable. Only sign up for services that offer the content you actually want to watch and that fit within your budget. If you need further assistance, our user-friendly streaming video guides can help you discover the content you're looking for. We have reviewed numerous streaming services, but if we missed your favorite option, please let us know in the comment section.
Sundance Now: The Optimal Choice for Independent FilmsSundance Now is designed for cord-cutters who appreciate high-quality and thought-provoking films, documentaries, and TV series. If you enjoy award-winning dramas and international thrillers, Sundance Now is the perfect destination. You can watch Ten Percent (based on the French series Call My Agent), psychological thrillers like Cheat, crime series such as No One Saw a Thing, and more. Sign up for a seven-day free trial to explore the Sundance Now offerings and see if it suits your interests.
MHz Choice: The Premier Choice for International SeriesThe United States is not the only country that produces outstanding films and television series. If you want to enjoy highly-rated and critically acclaimed foreign TV shows and movies, look no further than this service. MHz Choice offers a wide range of top international dramas, comedies, thrillers, and mysteries with easily readable English subtitles. Some notable titles include Twin, Maigret, The Art of Crime, Murder In, and Cherie.
HBO Max: The Superlative Streaming Service for Friends FansAfter canceling several TV shows, HBO Max is making waves once again. The media company's latest hit, House of the Dragon, has captured the hearts of viewers. For $10 per month, you can enjoy popular sitcoms like Friends and The Big Bang Theory, the latest movies such as Fast and Furious 9 and The Batman, as well as HBO Max originals like The Flight Attendant, Trade Up Industry, Dune, Gravity, Westworld, and more. You can also add HBO Max as an extra feature to your YouTube TV subscription.
Warner Bros., the parent company of HBO Max and Disney, has announced plans to merge the two services into a new platform called Max. The launch is scheduled for May 23.
Shudder: The Must-Have Service for Horror EnthusiastsShudder caters to horror fans with an extensive collection of thrilling movies, supernatural films, Hollywood classics, and original series. Unlike other services, Shudder offers human-curated recommendations rather than relying solely on algorithms. Some notable favorites on Shudder include John Carpenter's Holloween, Mandy, and Creepshow. Pricing starts at $4.75 per month after a seven-day free trial.
Top On-Demand Streaming TV Services
- #1 Max – Editor's Choice (.99–$19.99/mo. or .99–$199.99/yr.)
- #2 Prime Video – Best Value (.99–$14.99/mo. or $139.00/yr.)
- #3 Paramount – Most Content for Affordable Price ($5.99–$11.99/mo. or $59.99–$119.99/yr.)
- #4 Disney – Best for Families (.99–$10.99/mo. or $109.99/yr.)
- #5 Netflix – Most Original Content (.99–$19.99/mo.)
- #6 Apple TV – Best Original Content (.99/mo.)
- #7 Hulu – Best for Next-Day Streaming (.99–$14.99/mo.)
- #8 Peacock – 20,000 Hours of Content ($4.99–.99/mo. or $49.99–.99/yr.)
- #9 ESPN – Exclusive Live Sports (.99/mo. or .99/yr.)
- #10 Discovery – Best for Reality TV Fans ($4.99–.99/mo.)
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While they may be less expensive, don't underestimate Apple TV or Discovery. Some of Apple TV's original content matches the quality of HBO series (We. Love. Ted. Lasso.), and Discovery boasts an impressive 55,000 hours of content.
We also suggest opting for the pricier Prime Video plan. The $14.99 level of Prime Video includes an Amazon Prime membership, which comes with numerous other benefits like free shipping, Amazon Music, and more.
For Max, we recommend the middle-tier plan, Max Ad-Free plan ($15.99 per month). In addition to 1080p HD resolution, 5.1 surround sound, two streams, and 30 offline downloads, Max Ad-Free grants you access to theatrical Warner Bros. movie releases and an ad-free experience. (Advertisements during HBO shows? No thank you.)
What to consider in an on-demand streaming TV service
Does it offer the content you desire?If you're seeking original dramas, comedies, movies, and documentaries, you'll want a service like Max, Netflix, or Apple TV. Alternatively, if classic TV shows and movies are more to your liking, explore Prime Video, Hulu, or Disney. Interested in reality TV? Opt for Discovery or Paramount.
Most on-demand streaming services offer a decent mix of genres (except for Discovery, which primarily focuses on reality shows), but some emphasize specific types of content. Therefore, thoroughly review a service's offering before committing.
Does the service provide a free trial?One of the greatest advantages of streaming TV services is the free trial period. Unlike cable or satellite, streaming TV services don't require installation appointments or contracts, making it simple and cost-free to test out a service. The trial period is usually brief (typically seven days), but sufficient.
Is your streaming device and apps compatible?Setting up and trying out a streaming TV service is as effortless as downloading an app, but is that app available on your set-top box or mobile devices?
Most reviewed services here are accessible as smart TV apps, though we believe the optimum way to stream TV is by utilizing a streaming device such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku for enhanced stability and performance.
Services for live TV streamingIn addition to on-demand content, many streaming services also offer live TV streaming, providing a viable alternative to cable TV. For comprehensive guidance on cutting the cord, explore our Best Live TV Streaming Services review. We wholeheartedly recommend YouTube TV as the best deal available.
Final verdict: Max reigns as the king of on-demand streaming TVThere are numerous on-demand streaming services, both free and paid, available in the app stores of various devices. Listing them all would result in hours of scrolling (much like with Netflix). To get you started on your streaming adventure, we have included 16 of our top choices here.
At CableTV.com, we have a particular affinity for Max, Apple TV, and Netflix, though we must confess to spending countless hours watching the free app Pluto TV (mostly the endlessly looping Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel). But ultimately, the choice is yours, as there are numerous streams to choose from.
Our experts have invested thousands of hours in hands-on testing to review and rate these on-demand TV streaming services based on their value for money, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction. We then compared the on-demand TV streamers head-to-head to identify their strengths and weaknesses. For further details on our methodology, please visit our How We Rank page.
Our top picks out of the many available todayEngadget|@engadget|June 23, 2023 9:45 AMThe number of streaming video services available has significantly increased in recent years, with companies like Apple, Disney, and ESPN all vying for a share of the market. Gone are the days when Netflix was the only option. While this abundance of choices is exciting for those of us looking to discover our next favorite TV show, it can also be overwhelming and costly to determine the best streaming service. Now, you have to figure out which services offer the content you want to watch, fit your budget, provide the most compelling original series, movies, and documentaries, and offer the best live TV streaming options.
At Engadget, we understand the challenges of this process. That's why we have compiled a list of the top streaming services you can currently subscribe to. Our picks span across all types of content and budgets to make your decision easier. Keep in mind that subscribing to all the services listed here is probably not necessary unless you're a dedicated cord-cutter in search of endless content. However, these services offer the best value for your money, whether you're a sports enthusiast, a fan of classic movies, or simply love streaming.
Apple TVApple TV has curated an impressive collection of must-watch content since its launch, including Ted Lasso, Severance, and For All Mankind.
Apple has spared no expense in creating its streaming platform, launching with high-profile series like The Morning Show. While not all of them were immediate hits (See you later, get it?), Apple TV has since gathered a diverse range of captivating programming, such as Ted Lasso, Severance, and For All Mankind. Unlike Netflix or Disney, Apple TV takes a different approach by focusing on quality and high-profile celebrities rather than overwhelming viewers with an abundance of content. This strategy has proven successful.
For per month, there is an extensive selection of fantastic shows and movies to enjoy, including numerous National Geographic programs. As a dedicated Apple user, it might be worth considering upgrading to an Apple One plan, which bundles Apple Arcade, Apple Music, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $15 per month. By upgrading to $20 monthly, you can include your entire family with up to 200GB of iCloud storage. And for $30 per month, Apple throws in News and Fitness. – D.H.
ParamountFormerly known as CBS All Access, Paramount has gained recognition for its original series like Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and The Twilight Zone. However, it has also evolved into a sports destination.
Previously called CBS All Access, Paramount receives significant attention for its original series like Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and The Twilight Zone, but it has also emerged as a sports destination. Last summer, the app began streaming NWSL soccer matches when the league resumed play. Additionally, CBS announced that All Access would be the primary live streaming platform for the US women’s soccer league. However, not every game is available there, but it's a start.
Shortly after, CBS added UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer to its sports programming. The Champions League is the largest club competition in soccer, featuring teams from various European countries competing against each other to determine the best. The Europa League follows a similar format but with less prestige. Paramount now holds the rights to Series A soccer (Italy) and will broadcast CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, including the games involving the US Men's National Team.
At $5 per month with limited commercials or $10 per month ad-free, Paramount isn't an essential destination for sports just yet. The app allows you to stream NFL and other games that air on your local CBS station, but the network is still building a well-rounded lineup. Currently, it's more of a necessity for soccer fans than anything else. — B.S.
NBC PeacockPeacock offers a diverse selection of sports content, including Premier League soccer, in addition to many favorite NBC shows like The Office.
NBC announced prior to the Peacock's launch that it would offer Premier League soccer exclusively on its standalone service. However, we did not anticipate that the network would include so many games there, essentially requiring dedicated fans to subscribe. This is mainly due to scheduling conflicts with the Premier League. In the US, to follow the league comprehensively, you need the $5 per month service and access to NBC Sports network (either through cable TV or live TV streaming).
Previously, NBCUniversal had a similar structure, with one game per time slot broadcast on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold serving as an overflow platform. Gold also featured coverage of cycling, Olympic sports, and more. Currently, the Premier League is utilized to promote the new Peacock service, and due to the current scheduling format, even more games are available exclusively through streaming. Fortunately, Peacock offers match replays, providing added value if you cannot spend all day in front of your TV on Saturdays and Sundays. Games are usually scheduled from around 7:30 AM ET to approximately 5 PM ET, featuring matches at 7:30 AM, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, and one around 2:30 or 3 PM.
In addition, Peacock provides coverage of US Open tennis, NFL Wild Card games, and select events from the upcoming Tokyo and Beijing Olympics. There are also a few sports talk shows available for free, with paid users receiving on-demand replays of Triple Crown horse racing and more. — B.S.
Exquisite PerformancesShowtime provides an impressive array of highly acclaimed exclusive productions and blockbusters from their premium cable channel. Some of Showtime's most beloved triumphs include "Billions," "Shameless," and "Homeland." You can conveniently access Showtime's captivating content directly from their official website or app for a monthly fee of $11, or combine it with Paramount Plus for a discounted rate.
Starz DelightsSimilar to Showtime and HBO, Starz delivers on-demand access to their exclusive series and a rotating selection of films. Notably, Starz proudly houses Lionsgate movies and entire seasons of captivating shows such as "Outlander." The subscription to this remarkable service entails a monthly payment of .
In a world filled with endless options for streaming services, choosing the best one can often feel like an overwhelming task. However, after careful consideration and exploration, it's clear that there are a few standout platforms that rise above the rest. Whether you're a film aficionado, a sports enthusiast, or a horror fanatic, there's a streaming service for everyone. From Netflix's extensive catalog to Shudder's spine-chilling offerings, each platform has its own unique appeal. So, grab your popcorn, settle in, and let the binge-watching begin because with these top-notch streaming services at your fingertips, the possibilities are endless.