Guide to Streaming Video Services

Here are the best sources for movies and TV series

By James K. Willcox

Every year more Americans are cutting the cable TV cord and relying on streaming services instead. And, of course, many people still pay for cable plus a number of streaming services. But beyond the Big Three—Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix—which ones to choose?

If you haven’t researched what other streaming services are available lately, you may be surprised by the abundance of options. There are now dozens of services, including Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access), and Peacock (from NBCUniversal).

Some services, including Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, offer live TV channels, just like cable TV. Others, such as Acorn and BritBox, provide niche movies and television series.

Many of the services offer free trial periods, though not all. Just be sure to cancel before the clock runs out; charges start automatically once free trials are over.

Other streaming services are just plain free.

If you don’t want to sign up for a new monthly service, even on a trial basis, you can rent or buy one movie at a time through a pay-per-view service such as Amazon Video, Redbox, or Vudu, which now owns FandangoNow.

And there’s no reason to stream shows alone, even if there’s no one else in the living room with you. Many services, including Amazon, Disney+, Hulu, and Sling TV, now offer “watch party” features that let you watch movies and shows in sync with friends and family while messaging back and forth in a chat window. Teleparty—formerly called Netflix Party—is a Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browser extension that will synchronize video playback and add group chat to Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix.

This guide to the major video streaming and pay-per-view services should help you sort through the many choices. (We have advice on selecting a streaming media device, too.)

We’ll be adding new services, new pricing, and updates to content lineups as they emerge, so keep checking back.

Acorn TV

Price: $6 per month or $60 per year.

Who it’s best for: Lovers of British TV fare. Goodies include TV dramas (“A Place to Call Home”), mysteries (“Agatha Raisin”), and comedies.

Latest news: Season 15 of the popular Canadian TV series "Murdoch Mysteries" is now airing on Acorn TV. Acorn has picked up Channel 4’s “Help,” a 90-minute drama about the U.K.’s poor response to care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, written by “His Dark Materials” and “Enola Holmes” writer Jack Thorne, and starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham.

The service is also now showing “Dalgliesh,” an original period mystery series based on the inspector created by the novelist P.D. James.

Acorn TV is now available on the cable-style YouTube TV service (see below). It’s also on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable box, accessible via Xfinity on Demand, and on the go via the Xfinity Stream app.

AMC, Acorn TV’s parent company, says the service now has more than 1 million subscribers. Among the exclusives are the mystery “Deadwater Fell,” starring David Tennant, and “Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries,” a spinoff of a popular Aussie series.

Sign up for Acorn.

Amazon Prime Video

Price: $139 per year or $14.99 per month, with free shipping. A video-only subscription costs $9 per month.

Who it’s best for: Anyone who’s already paying for an Amazon Prime membership. The service now has a solid roster of original shows, including a new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; “Undone,” an animated fantasy/dramedy; and “The Underground Railroad,” Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of the Colson Whitehead book. Via Amazon Prime Video Channels, you can add HBO, Showtime, Starz, and other premium channels for $9 to $15 per month.

Latest news: The big news is that Amazon is hiking the price of its Amazon Prime service from $119 to $139 a year. New subscribers are already paying that, and current subscribers get the increase in their next billing cycle after March 25. For student members, the monthly fee will go up to $7.49 a month, or $69 a year for an annual membership. Amazon has now debuted “Wheel of Time,” an epic fantasy adventure starring Rosamund Pike, plus "Reacher," based on the popular Lee Child novels. Fans of epic adventures will be getting the much-hyped “Lord of the Rings” prequel series, "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," this fall. The company has already confirmed a season two, with the rights to show up to five seasons.

Also in 2022, Amazon will have the exclusive rights to broadcast 15 of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games. The deal gives Amazon the exclusive right to TNF games for 11 years.

Amazon has a deal that will bring new Universal movies to Amazon Prime Video four months after they appear on NBCUniversal’s new Peacock service (see below). Coming titles include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” Prime Video members will also get access to older Universal titles, including all the previous “Jurassic Park” movies.

A deal with Sony Pictures Television will bring shows from the producer Norman Lear, such as “All in the Family,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” and “One Day at a Time,” to Prime Video and IMDb TV, the company’s free streaming service. The titles will be split between the two services, so those on Prime Video won’t be on IMDb, and vice versa.

The company is also trying to acquire the film and TV libraries of MGM, a move that’s being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission.

Amazon Prime Video is widely supported on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Roku, and TiVo streaming devices, as well as Android and iOS phones and tablets, many smart TVs, Xbox, and PlayStation game consoles, and computers.

Sign up for Amazon Prime.

AMC+

Price: $7.99 a month or $83.88 annually, as a stand-alone subscription. But you can often sign up through one of the service’s partners, such as Amazon, Apple, and Roku, to get promotional pricing. Pay-TV providers such as Comcast Xfinity and DirecTV may also offer discounted rates.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who like AMC’s programming, such as “The Walking Dead,” or those who will benefit from a bundle that also includes other networks, such as BBC America, IFC, and the horror channel Shudder.

Latest news: AMC+ is one of the newer ad-free streaming subscription services. It includes the best of AMC, such as "Mad Men," and exclusive series including "Gangs of London,” a British action crime series, plus shows and movies from BBC America, IFC, and Sundance TV, with full access to Shudder, Sundance Now, and IFC Films Unlimited.

Like HBO Max, one perk of AMC+ is early access to some shows, as well as some streaming exclusives that aren’t available elsewhere.

AMC+ is available on computers, Android and iOS mobile devices, and Apple TV and Roku streaming players. Support for Amazon Fire TV is coming, the company says.

Sign up for AMC+.

Apple TV+

Price: $5 per month.

Who it’s best for: Those interested in Apple’s new original programming and those who want the convenience of adding more premium channels through the service’s app.

Latest news: The Apple TV+ subscription streaming service, which is now going on 3 years old, still costs just $5 per month, making it even cheaper than the $7-per-month Disney+ service (see below). The amount of content was initially limited, but the company has been steadily adding new original content since the launch.

New series include “Foundation,” based on the science fiction book series by Isaac Asimov, and “Severance,” a dark original drama series from Ben Stiller. The service also has Joel Coen’s "The Tragedy of Macbeth," starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, and “Coda,” an Academy Award-nominated movie about a teenager who is the only hearing member of her family. Apple won a bidding war for the film, which received four awards at the virtual Sundance Film Festival.

There are also returning series, including “The Morning Show,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell; and “Ted Lasso,” the Emmy-winning Jason Sudeikis comedy about an American football coach hired to run a British soccer team.

An option called Apple TV Channels lets you subscribe to premium channels such as HBO Max and Showtime from a single app.

In addition to being installed on Apple hardware, the Apple TV app, which provides access to Apple TV+, is also available on select smart TVs from several manufacturers; Amazon Fire TV, Google, and Roku streaming players; and Xbox and PlayStation game consoles.

Sign up for Apple TV+.

AT&T TV Now (Formerly DirecTV Now)

AT&T has stopped offering AT&T TV Now to new subscribers. Instead, it’s being merged into the AT&T DirecTV Stream service (see below). Current subscribers are able to keep their plans for the time being.

BritBox

Price: $7 per month or $70 annually.

Who it’s best for: Much like Acorn, above, BritBox targets fans of British TV fare. The service was formed as a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. One big difference between the two is that BritBox focuses exclusively on British shows, while Acorn also has programs from other countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand.

Latest news: Some of the more popular shows you can watch on BritBox include “EastEnders,” “Coronation Street,” and “Antiques Roadshow,” plus older classic episodes of “Dr. Who” (the first through seventh Doctors), and two seasons of “Fawlty Towers.” New original shows include “The Cleaner,” about a crime-scene cleaner, "Sister Boniface Mysteries," starring a moped-riding nun, and “Hope Street," about the arrival of the first Muslim officer in a small Northern Ireland town.

You can watch BritBox via computer browsers, on iOS and Android mobile devices, via Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku streaming players, and Amazon Fire, LG, Roku, and Samsung smart TVs.

Sign up for BritBox.

CBS All Access

Latest news: CBS All Access has been rebranded as Paramount+ (see below), so you won’t be able to sign up for the CBS All Access service.

The ad-supported version of Paramount+ launched in June 2021; new subscribers don’t get access to live local CBS stations that are available to pre-existing CBS All Access subscribers.

CNN+

Price: Not yet available.

WarnerMedia says that a new CNN streaming service, called CNN+, will launch this spring. It will target those who want even more news and CNN programming than what’s available on the CNN cable channel.

Programming will include live daily and weekly shows from familiar faces, including Anderson Cooper, Poppy Harlow, and Chris Wallace (until recently of Fox News). There will also be library content, such as "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" and "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," as well as CNN Films titles like "Blackfish" and "RBG." The network plans to provide interactive interviews where viewer questions are answered live by CNN reporters, industry leaders, and other expert guests.

Pricing and plans haven’t been announced, but so far it looks like there will be no free ad-supported version. Speculation is that it will cost about $6 a month. WarnerMedia—which is merging with Discovery (see below) as a stand-alone company—says it will provide a single app for both CNN+ and pay-TV subscribers using the network’s TV Everywhere feature.

The Criterion Channel

Price: $11 per month or $100 for an annual subscription.

Who it’s best for: Rising out of the ashes of the now-shuttered FilmStruck, the Criterion Channel classic movie streaming service offers “continuous access to Criterion’s streaming library of more than 1,000 important classic and contemporary films, plus a constantly refreshed selection of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films,” according to the company.

The stand-alone Criterion Channel is the result of a special deal with WarnerMedia, which shut down the FilmStruck streaming service in late 2018. Parts of the Criterion Collection film library, which had been included in that service, are also available on the HBO Max service.

Latest news: Among the tiles headed to the Criterion Channel are the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Coen Brothers’ "Blood Simple," “The Learning Tree,” from Gordon Parks, and Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.”

You can access the Criterion Channel via a desktop, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, newer Roku streaming players, Samsung smart TVs, Xbox game consoles, plus iOS and Android mobile devices.

Sign up for the Criterion Channel.

DirecTV Stream

Price: $70 to $150 per month.

Who it’s best for: Those who really want a full satellite-TV service but without the dish.

Latest news: AT&T has just raised the price of several of its DirecTV Stream offerings by either $5 or $10 a month (see below). The $70 Entertainment plan stays at $70 a month.

AT&T has been doing a lot of rejiggering lately, including spinning off its DirecTV satellite TV business into a new entity, also called DirecTV. DirecTV Stream is the new name for its AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now streaming services.

The deal didn’t include HBO Max, which remains under the WarnerMedia umbrella. WarnerMedia is slated to merge with Discovery as a new entity called Warner Bros. Discovery sometime in 2022.

The cheapest DirecTV Stream plan, with about 65 channels, stays at $70 a month. The Choice plan (90 channels) jumps $5 to $90 a month, while the Ultimate (130 channels, plus Starz) and Premier (140 channels, plus HBO Max, Cinemax, and Showtime) plans both get $10-a-month increases, to $105 and $150, respectively. Those with grandfathered AT&T TV Now and AT&T TV plans also get price hikes.

All the services come with on-demand shows and movies, and unlimited cloud DVR storage.

One good thing about the newer DirecTV Stream service is that you don’t have to rent a box. You can use an app on streaming players such as Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku, on Android and iOS phones and tablets, and on some Samsung smart TVs. AT&T also sells its own Android-based player, which costs $120 up front or $5 per month for 24 months. That’s much pricier than most stand-alone streaming media players, but it does support 4K videos and has a voice remote and Google Assistant built in.

Sign up for DirecTV Stream.

Discovery+

Price: $5 per month with ads or $7 per month without. Students can get a discounted $3-per-month rate.

Who it’s best for: Cord cutters looking to get Discovery’s assortment of channels—including the Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, and TLC—without subscribing to a full cable-style replacement service such as Hulu + Live TV, Sling, or YouTube TV.

Latest news: The Magnolia Network, from Chip and Joanna Gaines, has finally launched on Discovery+. It has original shows, including new episodes of “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home” and “Magnolia Table With Joanna Gaines,” plus workshops, shopping, and exclusive discounts with Magnolia Perks. You can watch all that on Discovery+, as well as via a Magnolia Channel app.

Other originals include "Naked and Afraid of Love," "American Detective with Lt. Joe Kenda, and "90 Day Fiance Universe."

Discovery+ has two tiers of service: a $5-per-month ad-supported plan and a $7-per-month option without ads. But the parent company recently announced that it will be merging with WarnerMedia, which is being spun off from AT&T, as a separate stand-alone company that will be called Warner Bros. Discovery. The new company is likely to launch in mid-2022.

The company—perhaps best known for “Shark Week”—has an extensive collection of content. That includes more than 55,000 episodes from 2,500 current and classic shows in Discovery’s portfolio of networks, which includes Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, and TLC. The service also includes content from the BBC Natural History Collection, plus nonfiction programming from A&E, The History Channel, and Lifetime.

New original shows will feature programming starring or created by Martha Stewart, Kevin Hart, David Schwimmer, Sir David Attenborough, Bobby Flay, and Giada De Laurentiis.

Discovery+ is available on Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku players and TVs, some smart TVs, Comcast Xfinity, computers, and Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Sign up for Discovery+.

Disney+

Price: $8 per month or $80 annually.

Who it’s best for: Just about everyone, especially families with kids of all ages.

Latest news: Disney says it will offer a less-expensive ad-supported version of the service later this year; pricing hasn’t been announced.

The service’s updated library of content includes the much-anticipated "Beatles Get Back" from Peter Jackson, Disney’s "Encanto," "Eternals," from the Marvel universe, and the Star Wars series "The Book of Boba Fett." New original series include "Hawkeye," from Marvel, plus a third season of the popular series "The Mandalorian,” also set in the “Star Wars” universe. Coming shows include several new Star Wars adventures, including "Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi," with Ewan McGregor reprising his role, and "Secret Invasion," a Marvel series with Samuel L. Jackson again starring as Nick Fury.

Last year the company raised the monthly price from $7 to $8 and the yearly tab by $10, from $70 to $80. It’s still among the least-expensive new services, costing just slightly more than Apple TV+. And unlike Apple, Disney+ has a deep catalog of library titles.

Disney also offers a bundled plan that combines Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu. You can pay $14 a month for a bundle with the ad-supported version of Hulu, or $20 for ad-free Hulu.

As a reminder, Disney now owns all the “Star Wars” movies, thanks to its acquisition of LucasFilms, as well as Marvel Studios and Pixar. Its most recent acquisition is 20th Century Fox, now renamed 20th Century Studios. It’s home to movie franchises such as “Avatar,” “Deadpool,” and “X-Men,” and TV shows including “The Simpsons” and “Empire”—as well as National Geographic shows.

And, of course, Disney has a huge library of its own animated and live-action films and TV series. Some of that content is currently licensed to Netflix in a deal that will be ending.

Disney+ has a GroupWatch feature, where you can watch the same movie with up to six friends, and you’re able to download programs and movies to a mobile device. Disney+ supports 4K content with HDR, as well as Dolby Atmos audio.

The Disney+ app, which features individual tiles for each of the prominent Disney brands, is available on lots of devices, including LG and Samsung smart TVs, plus Android TVs and Roku TVs. You can also access the service from most streaming players, game consoles, Android and iOS smartphones, and web browsers.

Sign up for Disney+.

ESPN+

Price: $7 per month or $70 per year for the basic service. You can also bundle ESPN+ with Disney+ and Hulu (with ads) for $14 per month.

Who it’s best for: Hardcore sports junkies looking to add out-of-market baseball and hockey games to their menu, college sports fans who want a broader assortment of sports than they can get with traditional TV, and those with an interest in niche sports, such as rugby and cricket. The service will also offer documentaries and scripted series.

Latest news: Disney hiked the price of ESPN+ last August. It now costs $7 per month or $70 per year, up from $6 and $60, respectively. The price of the Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu (with ads) bundle is $14 per month; the bundle with an ad-free version of Hulu is $20 per month.

ESPN+ is part of the main ESPN app. It’s available for Android and iOS mobile devices, Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku media streamers. It’s also available on the Oculus Go VR headset. You can also watch it online at ESPN.com.

Shows include “Peyton’s Places,” with Peyton Manning, “Man in the Arena," with Tom Brady, and "More Than an Athlete "with Michael Strahan. There’s also a library of original “30 for 30” documentaries, including “Vick,” about the rise and fall of the quarterback Michael Vick.

Sign up for ESPN+.

FilmStruck

FilmStruck, which offered indie, art-house, and classic movies as part of a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, is now closed. But Criterion has launched its own classic-movie service, called the Criterion Channel. (See above for more details.)

FuboTV

Price: $65 per month for about 115 channels for the base package and up to $80 per month for an Elite plan with more than 170 channels.

Who it’s best for: Sports fans looking for a streaming alternative. This sports-centric service offers a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (AMC, Bravo, FX, Syfy, and USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, ESPN, FS1, MLB Network, NBA League Pass, NHL Network, and NFL Network). There’s a robust roster of regional sports networks, including those from CBS, NBC, Fox, and SNY for local-game action.

Latest news: Fubo continues to make changes to its lineup. But it’s still missing Turner channels (Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT), as well as A&E networks including A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, and Vice TV.

On a positive note, Fubo was able to add Disney-owned channels like ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel last year. It also has more ABC local affiliates, plus national feeds in markets where a local affiliate isn’t yet available.

Perhaps more than any other service, Fubo has been continually rejiggering its plans and channel lineups. The current tiers start with the $65-per-month Starter plan with 117 channels and a cloud DVR with 200 hours of storage for up to three users at a time. The $70-per-month Pro plan adds 1,000 hours of DVR storage and up to 10 screens at a time at home. Fubo killed the $85-per-month Ultra plan and replaced it with the $80-per-month Elite plan. Essentially, you get everything in the Pro plans plus 46 extra entertainment channels.

Fubo supports unlimited streams on its step-up plans; you can upgrade to unlimited users on the Starter plan via Family Share for $6 extra a month. You can add several premium channels, though not HBO Max. One plan combines Epix, Showtime, and Starz for $20 per month. Separately, Showtime costs $11 a month; Starz is $9 a month. Sports fans can get Sports Plus with NFL Red Zone, with NCAA games and RedZone from the NFL network, for an extra $11 per month. An $8-per-month Fubo Extra plan adds more TV shows, movies, news, sports, music, and kids’ entertainment. There are also several Spanish-language plans and add-ons.

FuboTV was among the first streaming sites to offer sports in 4K with high dynamic range (HDR) when available from Fox. (Fubo recommends broadband speeds of 30 to 40 megabits per second for top-quality video.) You can get FuboTV on Android and iOS devices, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players and TVs, as well as smart TVs from Hisense, LG, Samsung, and Vizio, and Xbox game consoles.

Sign up for FuboTV.

HBO Max

Price: $15 per month or $150 annually; $10 per month with ads or $100 annually.

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants regular HBO programming, plus a lot more content from other AT&T and WarnerMedia properties, for the same monthly price.

Latest news: Parent company AT&T is spinning off its WarnerMedia division into a separate company, which is merging with Discovery+ as a new stand-alone streaming entity. The new company, to be called Warner Bros. Discovery, is slated to launch in mid-2022. It will include HBO Max, CNN, and all the content from Discovery+.

The company launched a less-expensive ad-supported version of HBO Max called HBO Max With Ads. It costs $10 per month or $100 a year, but it doesn’t include the Warner Bros. movies that appear on HBO Max the day they launch in theaters. For example, that was true of two blockbuster movies last year, “Dune” and “The Matrix 4.” It also doesn’t offer movies in 4K, and you can’t download movies for offline viewing.

In addition to regular HBO channels, HBO Max includes a slate of new original programs and titles from the Warner Bros. TV and film library. The service also has content from AT&T’s Cartoon Network, CNN, DC Entertainment, TBS, The CW, TNT, and Turner Classic Movies. But a deal with Universal that brought movies to the service has expired; they will now go to Peacock (see below).

The service has a number of exclusives, including the streaming rights to every episode of “Friends” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and exclusive domestic rights to all 12 seasons of “The Big Bang Theory.” Newer movies include "Free Man" and "The King’s Man," and original series include “The Gilded Age,” “Succession," "And Just Like That"—the sequel to "Sex in the City"—and "Euphoria."

HBO Max is available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku devices, as well as smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Vizio, Android and iOS mobile devices, computers, and game consoles.

Sign up for HBO Max.

HBO (Formerly HBO Now)

Price: $15 per month.

Who it’s best for: Since the launch of HBO Max, the audience for this service—once known as HBO Now but recently rebranded as just HBO—has been more limited.

Latest news: With the launch of HBO Max, many HBO subscribers have been migrated to that service. You can still get HBO, but it doesn’t include the extra content you get with HBO Max.

You can get more info on the HBO Max help center site.

Sign up for HBO.

Hulu

Price: $7 per month with ads or $13 per month without ads.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast TV. Hulu has current shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC; older ones from CBS; plus a growing roster of original programs. (It no longer has access to the “Seinfeld” library; its deal expired and the show has moved to Netflix.) It also has a deal with DreamWorks Animation for the exclusive streaming rights to future DWA feature films, plus a pact with Sony for the on-demand streaming rights to “The Good Doctor.” Original content includes “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Now that Disney fully owns Hulu, the latter service is becoming home to adult fare that’s edgier than what Disney+ offers. To that end, Hulu is the new streaming home for the company’s FX Networks, with exclusive rights to more than 40 original offerings.

You can also add several premium services. HBO Max, for example, costs $15 per month, while Showtime is $11 extra each month.

Latest news: Last fall Hulu raised prices by $1 per month, but it’s still a good deal given that the service continues to add new content, including “Dopesick,” about the opioid crisis, starring Michael Keaton, and “Pam and Tommy,” about the tempestuous relationship between Pamela Anderson and the Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. Other Hulu originals include “Nine Perfect Strangers,” starring Nicole Kidman, and "Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin and Martin Short.

Hulu is also giving students a break with an offer that drops the monthly price of the service from $7 to $2. The discount is available for eligible students over the age of 18 attending an accredited university. There’s also a deal that lets students get Hulu, Spotify, and Showtime for just $5 a month.

Hulu can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $14 per month with ads or $20 per month without them.

Hulu is widely supported on streaming players, smart TVs, Android and iOS mobile devices, game consoles, and computers.

Sign up for Hulu.

Hulu + Live TV

Price: $70 per month with ads and $76 per month without.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who want yet another option to get what they used to receive from their traditional pay-TV package. Hulu + Live TV offers about 75 channels, including the major broadcast channels—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—in most markets. You also get cable channels such as A&E, BET, CN, Comedy Central, CNN, Disney, Fox News, FX, TBS, and TNT, among others, plus everything in the Hulu library. It also has CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, plus some regional sports networks.

Latest news: Hulu + Live TV now includes both Disney+ and ESPN+, though the price is now $5 higher. (A bundled plan last year cost $73 a month.) Though Hulu reached a deal with Discovery to keep several channels, including Food Network, HGTV, and TLC on the service, some shows, such as “90 Day Fiancé” and “Fixer Upper” remain on the company’s newer Discovery+ service. It also lacks a few networks, such as AMC and Hallmark.

Hulu + Live TV now costs $70 per month for about 75 channels. The service has ads in the Hulu video-on-demand part of the bundle. To go ad-free, you now have to pay $76 per month. There’s also a live TV-only plan for $69 a month. It doesn’t include the Hulu streaming library or access to Disney+ or ESPN+, so we don’t think the pricing makes sense for most consumers.

The basic service lets you create six separate profiles—though only two people can use the service at a time—and includes a cloud DVR with 50 hours of recording time. Both plans combine everything you get with the regular Hulu service and the additional channels available on Hulu + Live TV.

There are also several add-ons. For example, an enhanced cloud DVR with 200 hours of storage, and the ability to zap through commercials on recorded shows, is $10 extra each month. Unlimited use also costs an extra $10 a month, but you can bundle it with unlimited screens at home, plus access for three mobile users, for $15 per month, a $5-per-month savings.

Hulu + Live TV is now widely available on Amazon Fire and Roku streaming players and TVs; Apple TV and Chromecast streaming devices; smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Vizio; PlayStation and Xbox game consoles; and Android and iOS mobile devices. You can use voice commands on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices to watch shows on Hulu.

Sign up for Hulu + Live TV.

Netflix

Price: $10 per month for standard-definition video on a single screen; $15.50 per month for high-def video on up to two screens; $20 per month for 4K ultra-high-definition video on up to four screens.

Who it’s best for: Everyone. Netflix is still the king of binge. It has a vast library of movies and TV shows, plus now classic original shows (“House of Cards,” “Stranger Things”) and newer hits (“Bridgerton,” “Squid Game,” “The Witcher”). And it has new original movies (“The Harder They Fall,” a neo-Western with Idris Elba and Regina King, and "Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Homecoming”). A deal with Marvel spawned “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones.” But Netflix has lost access to some Disney titles and Marvel and Pixar movies, which are now part of the Disney+ service.

Latest news: Netflix once again has raised prices by up to $2 a month, depending on the plan. The standard plan now costs $15.50 per month, while the premium plan, with 4K HDR and up to four users, is $20 per month. The most basic plan—in standard definition, and limited to one user at a time—costs $10 per month.

Netflix also says it’s planning a move into video games next year; it recently hired an ex-Facebook and Electronic Arts executive to spearhead the effort. In a letter to shareholders, the company said the plan is for games to be “included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series,” with a primary focus on mobile devices.

The company also recently reached a deal with Universal to bring animated titles from that studio and DreamWorks Animation to the service this year, after a four-month window on Paramount+ expires. A current arrangement with HBO Max for all new releases has expired.

Netflix is widely supported on Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and TVs; Apple TV, Chromecast, and Nvidia Shield streaming players; smart TVs; computers; PlayStation and Xbox game consoles; and Android and iOS phones and tablets. Earlier, Netflix notified those with the first two Roku streaming players that the Netflix app would no longer work on those devices. You can find out whether your Roku model is affected by going to the Netflix page for compatible devices.

Sign up for Netflix.

Paramount+

Price: $5 per month or $50 annually with ads, or $10 per month or $100 annually ad-free.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters looking for major network fare without using an antenna. The service, which replaced CBS All Access, provides full-length episodes of CBS programs and new original programming, plus livestreams of local CBS affiliates in many markets. CBS All Access subscribers were automatically switched to Paramount+.

Latest news: Paramount+ is adding new original content regularly, including "1883," the prequel to its popular "Yellowstone" series (which, thanks to an oddity of licensing deals, is on Peacock). There are also a growing number of series based on the Star Trek franchise, and a reboot of the popular comedy “Fraser”—with Kelsey Grammer returning in the title role—is in the works. The company has also moved its popular “SEAL Team” TV show from CBS to Paramount+; the first four episodes of season five aired on CBS.

ViacomCBS now offers two plans. The $5-per-month ad-supported Essential tier mirrors what you used to get with CBS All Access: movies and TV shows from ViacomCBS properties, including BET, CBS, Miramax, and Paramount, as well as live sports, including NFL games, soccer matches, and PGA golf. This plan doesn’t include live local CBS stations, but the NFL on CBS is available via separate live feeds. Verified students are able to get a 25 percent discount on the Essential plan.

The Premium tier, previously called Commercial Free, costs $10 per month. It’s mostly commercial-free (except for live TV streams) and features the same content as the ad-supported tier but includes your live local CBS station. It also has shows and movies in 4K with HDR (including Dolby Vision), plus mobile downloads.

There are also bundles that include Showtime. The Essential plan with Showtime is either $12 a month or $120 a year, while the Premium bundles cost $15 a month or $150 a year.

The $6-per-month Limited Commercials plan has been discontinued, though current subscribers can keep it.

The company says the service will host 30,000 episodes of TV shows, along with 36 new original series, this year. These include shows such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “The Twilight Zone,” "The Mayor of Kingstown," and the limited series “The Stand,” plus returning seasons of shows including “The Good Fight” and “No Activity.” Coming feature films include “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” starring Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening, and a much-anticipated adaptation of the video game “Halo,” which was originally slated to appear on the company’s Showtime network.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is now available. Other new blockbuster movies that will hit the service after they appear in theaters include “Mission: Impossible 7” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Paramount+ is available on Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and TVs; Apple TV, Chromecast, and Nvidia Shield streaming players; PlayStation and Xbox game consoles; smart TVs; computers; and Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Sign up for Paramount+.

Peacock

Price: Free, or $5 per month with ads, $10 without.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters looking for a free way to access NBC shows and Universal movies, or those looking for quicker access to an expanded roster of NBC shows, licensed content, original programming, and live sports events.

Latest news: Peacock has reached an unusual deal with Universal that will see that company’s new movies streaming exclusively on Peacock for four months 45 days after they leave theaters. After that, Amazon gets them for 10 months before they return to Peacock. The deal starts this year and includes movies such as “Marry Me,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson; a George Clooney-Julia Roberts romantic comedy called “Ticket to Paradise”; and “Downton Abbey: A New Era.” Also part of the deal are the expected blockbusters “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” Previously, Universal had a deal with HBO.

The service has free and paid tiers. For budget-minded streamers, the free ad-supported tier gives you access to about two-thirds of the roughly 20,000 shows, movies, news, sports, and exclusive original programming in the service’s library. It includes current-season NBC broadcasts a week after they air, plus a mix of offerings from NBC, Universal Studios, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo, and Universal Kids.

The service will also license shows from other networks, including A&E, ABC, and Fox, as well as ViacomCBS, which owns the competitive Paramount+ service (see above).

As you might imagine, you’ll find NBC shows such as “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Saved by the Bell.” Perhaps the bigger news is that Peacock has regained the rights to the hit comedy “The Office” now that a deal with Netflix has expired. Peacock also has deals in place for movies from Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, Warner Bros., and Blumhouse, with titles including “The Bourne Identity,” “The Matrix,” “Jurassic Park,” and “The Godfather” trilogy.

Premium-tier subscribers get the full complement of programming—plus next-day access to current shows, as well as original Peacock programming; free-tier subscribers get only program samples or occasionally the first episode or two. They can also download shows and movies for offline viewing. Original series include a reboot of “Joe vs. Carole,” a scripted adaptation of the “Joe Exotic: Tiger King" podcast; “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol,” and “Yellowstone.” Among the newest titles are “Bel-Air,” a more serious reboot of "The Prince of Bel-Air“; “Paris in Love,” about Paris Hilton’s wedding plans, “One of Us Is Lying,” about high school students in detention making it out alive.

You can access Peacock through Comcast’s own Xfinity X1 cable and Flex streaming platforms, as well as on Amazon Fire TV boxes and TVs; Apple devices (Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch); Google Android TVs; Roku players and TVs; phones, tablets, and Chromecast; and through LG and Vizio smart TVs. The service is also available on Xbox One and Sony PS4 game consoles.

Sign up for Peacock.

Philo

Price: $25 per month for 60-plus channels.

Who it’s best for: Viewers who don’t care about sports—or live TV channels—and don’t want to subsidize those who do. Philo is a sports-free streaming service backed by several cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom.

You can also add premium channels, such as Epix ($ a month) and Starz ($9 a month).

Latest news: Last year Philo’s price for new subscribers went from $20 to $25 per month; those who signed up before the price hike kept the lower price. As part of the new $25 package, Philo is extending the time it keeps recordings in its unlimited DVR from 30 days to a year. Existing subscribers can upgrade to this plan if they want access to the extended DVR. Philo supports up to three users at a time.

More recently, Philo announced it would be creating its first original series, "Boss Moves, "with "Love and Hip-Hop" star Rasheeda Frost. The new series will be available in April.

Philo currently offers more than 60 channels from partners including Discovery, ViacomCBS, and AMC Networks. But you don’t get live news (CNN, Fox News), sports (ESPN, NFL Network), or local broadcast channels. With T-Mobile shutting down its TVision Vibe streaming service, Philo has become one of T-Mobile’s TV partners.

Philo supports three simultaneous users and includes a cloud DVR that lets you record and save an unlimited number of shows for up to 30 days. You can watch a show from the beginning if you join late, and a 72-hour “look back” feature lets you view any show that appeared within the previous three days. You can even share your favorite shows with friends right from within the platform.

Philo is available on Amazon Fire TV; Apple TV; Chromecast and Roku streaming players; Android smart TVs; computers; and Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Sign up for Philo.

Showtime Now

Price: $11 per month.

Who it’s best for: Showtime fans. Like HBO Now, this service lets you watch a cable network without the cable. You get all of Showtime’s movies, plus original shows such as “Your Honor,” “Dexter: New Blood,” and “Billions,” documentaries, and sporting events.

Showtime Now is Showtime’s streaming service, not to be confused with Showtime Anytime, the company’s “TV anywhere” app that lets those already paying for Showtime through a TV provider access it on other devices when away from home.

Latest news: In addition to bringing back its popular Dexter character, played by Michael C. Hall, Showtime has a new psychological thriller called “Yellowjackets,” about a girls’ soccer team plane that crashes in the wilderness, and the documentary “Cusp,” about three teenage girls finding their way in the world during the waning days of a Texas summer.

Showtime Now is available on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku streaming players; Android and iOS mobile devices; LG and Samsung smart TVs; Android TVs; and computers.

Sign up for Showtime Now.

Sling TV

Price: The service’s Orange package is now $35 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $35 per month, supports three users and has a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $50.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who can get ABC and CBS another way, because those channels are missing. Sling TV was a pioneer in offering channels instead of individual shows. The Orange package comes with about 30 cable offerings, including Disney and ESPN, plus A&E, the Food Network, and TBS. You can get Fox and NBC in some markets, but ABC and CBS are still missing from both plans. You can add premium channels, including Showtime, $10, and Starz, $9.

What’s new: Sling TV has ended its long-standing offer of $10 for the first month of service. Instead, you can try it for free for three days.

Last year Sling raised prices on its plans by $5 a month and upped the prices for its themed add-on packages, though only by $1 per month. But the good news is that Sling has beefed up its cloud DVR. Everyone now gets 50 hours of free DVR storage, up from 10 hours. You can also get 200 hours of storage, up from 50 hours, for $5 per month with the DVR Plus add-on.

Sling now has a deal with Barstool Sports for a channel dedicated to sports and pop culture. The Barstool Sports Channel features live content including video podcasts, blogs, and video series. Sling TV also includes a new sports betting information channel from DraftKings.

The company has updated its app with a new home screen, an updated guide, and a dedicated DVR tab for recorded shows. There’s also a new “watch from the beginning” button for videos.

Sling TV has a large number of add-on packs, which provide extra genre-based programming (sports, news, lifestyle, Hollywood, etc.). They cost $6 to $21 (a bundle with several packs) extra each month.

Sling TV is widely available on devices including Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and TVs, Android TVs, Apple TV and iOS devices, Google Chromecast, LG and Samsung smart TVs, and TiVo Stream 4K players.

Sign up for Sling TV.

Starz

Price: $9 per month.

Who it’s best for: Like HBO and Showtime, you can now get Starz without a pay-TV subscription. Content includes shows (“Spanish Princess,” “Outlander,” and “Power”) and movies (“Spiderman: Homecoming” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”).

Latest news: Starz ended its agreement with Sony Pictures, but a deal with Lionsgate brings movies like “John Wick” and “Knives Out” to the service. It’s also about to launch a new season of "Outlander," and offer the streaming debut of the "Venom" sequel, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

Starz also has a number of original TV shows, including “American Gods,” “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult,” and “Power.” Newer originals include “Hightown,” about a Cape Cod woman struggling with sobriety, and “BMF” (short for Black Mafia Family), a crime drama.

Starz is available on Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and TVs, Apple TV and Google Chromecast streaming players, some smart TVs, Android and iOS mobile devices, computers, and game consoles.

Sign up for Starz.

YouTube TV

Price: $65 per month.

Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters looking for a different option. YouTube TV offers access to more than 85 channels, including all the major local networks. It supports up to three simultaneous users. You get a cloud DVR—a virtual recorder that stores programs for you on YouTube’s servers—that lets you save as many shows as you want for up to nine months before they’re deleted.

YouTube TV has a nice selection of channels, including AMC, Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, Turner, USA, and some regional sports networks. HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, and a few other channels can be added for an extra fee.

The service has free unlimited cloud DVR and supports up to three users at a time.

Latest news: YouTube and ABC/Disney recently ended a fight that saw the service lose access to programming from Disney, ESPN, FX, National Geographic, and local ABC stations.

YouTube is also reportedly interested in acquiring the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket when its contract with DirecTV expires after the 2022 season.

The service has expanded its Spanish-language content with three Univision channels, as well as two new add-on packages: One is from the Pantaya network, and the other will include Sony Cine, CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, and Fox Deportes.

Last year Google unveiled a new 4K Plus bundle, a $20-per-month add-on to the regular service. Benefits include 4K video support, with the ability to search for 4K titles; the ability to watch content saved to your DVR offline on the Android and iOS apps; and unlimited streams from home. YouTube TV supports 5.1 Dolby audio when played on select devices. The feature is available on both live and video-on-demand content.

Like other cable-style streaming services, YouTube TV has had a few price hikes, the most recent last summer when it jumped a whopping 30 percent from $50 to $65 per month. It did add a bunch of CBSViacom channels, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Network.

YouTube TV is available on Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and TVs, Apple TV and Google Chromecast streaming players, a variety of smart TVs, Android and iOS mobile devices, computers, and PlayStation and Xbox game consoles.

Sign up for YouTube TV.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.


Older Post Newer Post