I hadn’t even heard of some of these.
A Guide to the Best Streaming Service For You, From Netflix and Hulu to HBO MAX
We sort through 26 on-demand services and the shows and movies they offer as well as their costs and bundle options
ByChris KornelisUpdated April 13, 2020 2:54 pm ET
The explosion of streaming services has created more movies and series than many of us imagined possible. It also has created confusion, as new services debut and favorite shows skip around among providers. For example, “Seinfeld” is on Hulu today, will move to Netflix next year, and has done time on Crackle.
To keep things straight among streaming options for viewers at home, we put together a guide to 26 on-demand services. A number are big buffets, with something for everyone. Others specialize in niche content such as horror or British programming.
There are also a number of free, ad-supported options—such as Tubi and Vudu and IMDb TV—that offer wide-ranging fare. Adding them to your Roku or Amazon Fire TV menu can be helpful, even if you never think you will use them. These and other streaming devices let you search all your channels so you can find what you are looking for even if it’s on a channel you forgot you had.
Description: One of the first subscription streaming services features original TV shows and movies as well as a never-ending supply of oldies
Titles: Original series such as the paranormal mystery “Stranger Things,” the crime drama “Ozark” and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in “Grace and Frankie.” It also is home to original Adam Sandler movies such as “The Ridiculous 6,” “Murder Mystery” and “The Do-Over.”
Price: $9 to $16 a month. Netflix.com
Amazon Prime Video
Description: Part of the Amazon Prime suite of offerings, which includes loads of original shows and movies, as well as catalog classics
Titles: Original series include the Emmy-winning “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Al Pacino in “Hunters” and Julia Roberts in the first season of psychological mystery “Homecoming,” with Janelle Monáe starring in season 2, out May 22. Original movies include last year’s big-budget “The Aeronauts,” starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne.
Price: Comes with Prime: $119 a year or $13 a month; $59 annual/$6.49 monthly for students. Amazon.com
Description: An early streaming upstart, Hulu features originals and quick additions of some network and cable shows
Titles: Originals include Elisabeth Moss in the buzzy adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and recent additions like “Little Fires Everywhere,” starring Reese Witherspoon. New programming includes “FX on Hulu”—original FX shows available only on Hulu, such as “Devs” and Jeff Bridges in “The Old Man,” expected this fall. Hulu also is home to “Parasite,” the South Korean film that won best picture, best director and best original screenplay at the Academy Awards in February.
Price: $6 with ads, $12 without, more with live TV option. Bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13 a month. Hulu.com
Description: Disney’s answer to Netflix includes large portions of its vast catalog, originals you can find only on the service and delayed access to new releases after they have been in theaters and made available for sale or rental
Titles: Major offerings from the “Star Wars,” Pixar and Disney franchises, including “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Onward,” and “Frozen 2,” respectively. “The Mandalorian,” a Star Wars-world series starring Baby Yoda was an instant hit when the service went live last year. “Frozen 2” was also recently released on the service.
Price: $7 a month, $70 a year. Bundled with Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 a month. Disneyplus.com
Description: A massive helping of both scripted shows and live sports, (when they are happening) including many hours of live events that don’t run on the cable channel
Titles: The huge batch of content includes every installment of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary film series, live and recorded events from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and others, as well as original series such as “The Fantasy Show.”
Price: $5 monthly/$50 annually, or bundled with Disney+ and Hulu for $13 a month. Plus.espn.com
Description: Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s new subscription service features highly produced content in episodes that run for less than 10 minutes
Titles: Re-boots such as “Punk’d,” as well as at least two shows inspired by the home-renovation TV craze: “Flipped,” a comedy starring Kaitlin Olson and Will Forte, and “Murder House Flip,” about people who buy homes that were once crime scenes.
Price: $5 a month after a 90-day trial. Quibi.com
Description: NBCUniversal’s streaming service promises more than 600 movies and 400 TV series, leaning heavily on the NBC and Universal archives. It is available this week to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers; widely on July 15
Titles: When it’s fully launched the TV lineup will include “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock,” “Frasier,” and originals made for the service. Also: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” will be streaming before they air on TV, at 8 and 9 p.m. ET, respectively.
Description: A big-budget service with big name talent vying to be a dominant player in streaming
Titles: Apple TV+ came out of the gate last year with a roster of series that included splashy drama “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, followed by M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant.” Recent movies include Samuel L. Jackson in “The Banker.” Next month: “Central Park,” a new animated series from “Bob’s Burgers” creator Loren Bouchard.
Price: $5 a month or free for a year if you buy an Apple device. Apple.com
Description: A joint venture between the BET Networks and Tyler Perry Studios, BET+ includes TV shows and movies, including originals, focused on black culture
Titles: In addition to shows from the BET network, the services includes movies, TV shows and stage plays created by Tyler Perry, including the film “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” His first original series for the service is “Tyler Perry’s Ruthless,” starring Melissa L. Williams, a spin-off of “Tyler Perry’s The Oval.”
Price: $10 a month. BET.plus
Description: A free, ad-supported general-interest service with familiar movies and TV shows, which also runs its shows in live channels for those not wanting to make choices
Titles: In addition to a dozen 007 films, there is a variety of movies like “August: Osage County,” “The Ring,” and every film in the “Twilight” saga as well as TV shows like “American Pickers,” “Roseanne” and “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
Price: Free. Pluto.tv
Description: Gobs of free, ad-supported TV shows and movies, as well as thousands of others to rent and buy
Titles: Classic cable TV fare available free includes Billy Crystal’s “City Slickers,” Jean-Claude Van Damme in “Bloodsport” and Patrick Swayze in “Road House”
Price: Many movies are free with ads; others are available for purchase. Vudu.com
Description: A free, ad-supported service from the website that brings you every actor’s birthday features a mix of familiar TV shows and movies.
Titles: For TV, it’s “Schitt’s Creek” to “Desperate Housewives.” For movies, there are classics like “Bull Durham.”
Price: Free with ads as long as you watch online or on Amazon Fire TV devices. Imdb.com/tv
Description: This free, ad-supported service includes a handful of originals as well as myriad catalog movies and shows
Titles: Hits you can’t find on Netflix include classics like “Easy Rider” and “Five Easy Pieces.” There are also DVD-era staples such as “Big Fish” and “The Ladies Man.”
Price: Free. Crackle.com
Titles: The service has a section called “Not on Netflix,” which currently includes “Shrek Forever After,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Alf” and Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management.”
Price: Free. Tubitv.com
Description: Public libraries and universities support this free service to provide ad-free feature films and documentaries
Titles: New and vintage Oscar fare, such as “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird” and “Chinatown,” as well as documentaries including “The Central Park Five”
Price: Free with an account at a participating library or university. Kanopy.com
Description: PBS offers thousands of movies, documentaries and TV shows for free streaming at PBS.org and on the PBS Video app, with more content available to those who donate to their local PBS station
Titles: Programs available free to everyone include episodes of “Austin City Limits,” “Frontline” and “This Old House,” as well as Ken Burns’s “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” Contributors eligible for PBS Passport can also view more Ken Burns docs, such as “Jazz” and “Country Music,” plus every season of “Downton Abbey.”
Price: Many titles are available free. PBS Passport titles are available to contributors who donate at a level determined by their local station, typically around $60 annually. PBS.org
Description: The brand closely associated with independent films backs this service featuring a collection of original and curated documentaries, movies and TV series
Titles: Movies include “Best In Show,” “Whale Rider” and “World’s Greatest Dad.” “Sundance Now Original Series” offerings include the Swedish series “The Restaurant,” now three seasons deep.
Price: $7 monthly or $60 annually. Sundancenow.com
Description: The service, created by Criterion Collection, boasts more than 2,000 titles, both foreign and domestic, from all eras of cinema
Titles: Classics include Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” and Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” This month, the service added 2005’s “Kinetta,” the solo directorial debut of Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the Academy Award-winning “The Favourite.”
Price: $11 monthly or $100 annually. Criterionchannel.com
Description: A curated collection of British movies and TV shows, and others from around the globe with British TV sensibilities.
Titles: “Doc Martin” fans can find star Martin Clunes in the true-crime series “Manhunt.” The service’s popular “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” recently spawned a feature film, “Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.”
Price: $6 monthly or $60 annually. Acorn.tv
Description: A British-focused service heavy on TV shows and movies that originated on the BBC and ITV in the U.K., including comedies, dramas and murder mysteries.
Titles: From comedies like “Inside No. 9,” to the hit crime series, “Death in Paradise,” about a police department in the Caribbean that can’t hold onto a chief investigator.
Price: $7 a month or $70 a year. Britbox.com
Description: A service dedicated to movies and TV shows in the horror, thriller and suspense genres
Titles: The mix of familiar and original movies and TV shows includes “Halloween” and “Escape From New York.” There’s also “Cursed Films,” an original documentary series about seemingly cursed horror films like “The Exorcist,” “Poltergeist” and “The Omen.” This week’s final episodes explore the making of “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” and “The Crow,” which resulted in the death of star Brandon Lee.
Price: $6 a month or $57 a year. Shudder.com
Description: Dedicated to anime movies and TV shows, Crunchyroll offers both original and syndicated fare, available in eight languages in more than 200 countries
Titles: The service offers movies as well as more than 30,000 episodes of more than 1,000 TV shows. This year, it launched Crunchyroll Originals, with a lineup of eight series, including “Tower of God,” based on the popular South Korean online comic of the same title, created by the artist known as SIU.
Price: Free with ads, or $8 monthly or $80 annually. Crunchyroll.com
Description: In addition to original and vintage movies and TV shows from the world of DC Comics—such as Batman, Superman, Green Lantern—the service offers more than 20,000 digital comic books
Titles: Movies include both of Michael Keaton’s contributions to the “Batman” franchise as well as 1978’s “Superman,” starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder. Among its popular fare is “Titans,” a series built out from D.C.’s Teen Titans characters.
Price: $8 monthly or $75 annually. DCuniverse.com
CBS All Access
Description: The home of many current and vintage CBS TV series, live offerings from several CBS properties, as well as original shows developed for the platform
Titles: “Survivor,” “Blue Bloods” and “NCIS.” One of its original series, “Star Trek: Discovery,” was launched in 2017 and was joined by “Star Trek: Short Treks” in 2018. In this year’s “Star Trek: Picard,” Sir Patrick Stewart returns to the role of Jean-Luc Picard.
Price: $6 a month with commercials, $10 without; less if you pay annually. CBS.com/all-access
Description: This on-demand, ad-free service offers original series solely to subscribers of Spectrum TV, the Xfinity competitor available only in parts of the country
Titles: The shiny object here is the re-boot of the beloved series “Mad About You,” with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. Other originals include gothic mystery drama “Paradise Lost,” starring Josh Hartnett.
Price: Free to Spectrum TV subscribers. Spectrumoriginals.com
Description: Expected in May, HBO Max promises a raft of content from Home Box Office, as well as movies and TV from Warner Bros., DC, New Line Cinema and others
Titles: Hits like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City” will be offered up alongside New Line movies like “The Lord of the Rings.” As for original fare, HBO has a “Game of Thrones” spinoff, “House of the Dragon” in development. It also recently signed a deal with children’s book author Mo Willems and gave the green light to a documentary series called “Wahl Street,” which HBO promises will offer “offers fans a glimpse into global star Mark Wahlberg’s life as he juggles the demands of a rigorous film schedule coupled with an ever-growing network of diverse businesses.”
Price: $15 a month, with promotions planned for HBO and AT&T customers at launch. HBOmax.com