Got yourself a new streaming device, TV or phone? Looking for some great content to watch? This guide is for you.
In the last decade millions of Americans have cut the cord and said goodbye to cable and satellite television, replacing it with video streaming services. The streaming boom has been so massive that platforms like Netflix are now valued in the billions and regularly produce original high-budget films and series. Others have followed its success – new platforms catering to a variety of different tastes – be it film buffs, TV series addicts or even anime enthusiasts, are cropping up constantly.
With the growth of new services cord cutting is about to get a lot more complicated, and that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best streaming services in the US as well as links to guides on what is available to watch for each platform.
Best streaming service:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best streaming services regularly as new ones launch.
Price plans: Basic ($8.99), Standard ($12.99) and Premium ($15.99)
No video streaming service list would be complete without the one that started it all – Netflix. With over 4000 titles in the US, it has one of the largest content libraries that is regularly expanded. It also offers a well-balanced selection of content: blockbusters, documentaries, animation, standup comedy, family-friendly content and more. The platform’s original series are also a boon, with smash hits like Stranger Things, Black Mirror and The Crown capturing imaginations around the globe.
Yet, what makes Netflix a true winner for movie buffs is that it offers the largest number of ”certified fresh” films of any platform, which can also be streamed in 4K with a Premium plan. That, coupled with the fact that you can download content for later offline viewing, makes Netflix hard to pass up. The only real con is that series and films can be removed abruptly, but that happens on plenty of other platforms too. This is why, even with recent price increases, it’s hard to beat Netflix’s price-quality ratio.
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Price plans: Hulu ($5.99), Hulu No Ads ($11.99), Hulu + Live TV ($49.99), Hulu No Ads + Live TV ($59.99). $12.99 a month when bundled with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.
If Netflix is the best video streaming service for movie buffs, then Hulu is the best for TV series binge-watchers. You will find nostalgic classics like Full House and Seinfeld, a great variety of animated shows including South Park, Futurama, Steven Universe and more. You won’t miss out on on-going shows either since Hulu usually adds episodes the day after they premiere on TV. In terms of originals, Hulu is still lagging behind Netflix, but we recommend checking out The Handmaid’s Tale.
Hulu is a step ahead of the competition when it comes to pricing – if you don’t mind ads, it offers one of the cheapest monthly subscriptions out there. Nevertheless, even with the No Ads plan you will see some commercials on select shows. At the moment, however, that’s only three shows out of the service’s whole library.
Finally, if you miss the traditional TV viewing experience and want to be able to watch the news and sports events, Hulu offers this with its Live TV subscription – a solid replacement for cable which gives you access to more than 60 channels.
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3. Amazon Prime Video
Price: included in your $129 per year Amazon Prime subscription or $8.99 per month standalone subscription
Amazon Prime Video often gets outshined by its two major competitors Hulu and Netflix, but it’s still one of the best video streaming services out there. It has a surprisingly large library and offers a healthy mix of TV shows and movies. Recently, Amazon Prime has also started producing more original series like the Emmy winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. However, the one we are most excited about is its upcoming Lord of the Rings series. The best part is that Prime Video is free with your annual Amazon Prime subscription, which has plenty of other benefits.
Of course, the service is not without its flaws. Its interface can be a bit clunky at times and you can only stream on up to two devices at a time. You cannot create multiple profiles under the same subscription like you can with Netflix either. This limits personalization to a degree, but if that doesn’t bother you Amazon Prime Video is a great choice for your primary video streaming service.
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4. HBO Now
After the disappointing ending to the decade-spanning epic Game of Thrones, many might put HBO Now on the bottom of their streaming service list. However, we are here to tell you that it still has a lot to offer. Not only has the network already redeemed itself with the excellent Chernobyl short series, its catalog still includes some of the best TV shows to ever make it on air. The Sopranos, The Wire and Westworld, just to name a few. We also can’t forget the large library of movies, which doesn’t fall too short from its competitors.
However, HBO Now’s monthly price is considerably higher than most other video streaming services, without the option to watch content in 4K or to download episodes or films for offline viewing. There is no limit to the number of devices, but that’s not enough to make it appealing if you are already paying for multiple other services. Nevertheless, the quality of the content on the platform can be more than worth it if you are an HBO fan.
But what’s there to watch? Check out our genre-specific guides for what’s on HBO right now:
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Price plans: Fubo ($55), Fubo Extra ($60)
Initially a soccer video streaming platform, FuboTV is now a live TV sports-focused streaming service (although it’s not sports only). It offers 90 channels with the basic package and 110 if you go for Fubo Extra, including regional sports networks which you would rarely find on other streaming platforms. The base package also provides 30 hours of cloud DVR storage, which you can upgrade to a whopping 500 hours for just an extra $10 a month.
FuboTV does have one major drawback, however: it doesn’t carry ESPN or any Disney-owned channels. It compensates for that with more than 30.000 sporting events per year, including NFL, NBA, and MLB games. And if you are a soccer fan, FuboTV is probably the best streaming service for you, since it claims to offer more games from both major and minor leagues than any other service out there.
6. ESPN Plus
Price: $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. $12.99 a month when bundled with Hulu and Disney Plus.
If there is a name that’s synonymous with sports, it’s ESPN. In the case of the channel’s video streaming service, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. With ESPN Plus, you are able to watch a great variety of sports content, including NHL, MLB, NBA games, college sports, soccer and much more. Recently, ESPN also gained exclusive rights to UFC pay-per-view events, making ESPN+ the only streaming service where you can watch them. So, if you are a cordcutter MMA fan, this could be the sports streaming platform of your choice. We should note, however, that each PPV costs an extra $60 on top of your subscription.
Like almost every other platform on this list, ESPN+ also offers original programming – documentaries and shows like In The Crease – a daily NHL discussion show. Unfortunately, neither ESPN’s Monday Night Football nor its live NBA coverage can be viewed on ESPN+, which might be disappointing to a lot of fans. Nevertheless, while this video streaming platform is not a true replacement for all of ESPN’s channels, it offers plenty of great content at a reasonable price.
7. CBS All Access
Price plans: $5.99 or $9.99 commercial-free
As the name of this streaming service implies, CBS All Access is a platform dedicated to CBS content. In fact, it only offers CBS programming on demand, as well as live streaming of your local CBS channels. You can even catch NFL broadcasts depending on your location. This makes the $9.99 per month subscription fee for the ad-free experience more than worth it for cord cutters that enjoy the channel’s content.
CBS All Access has a huge catalog of classic and modern CBS shows (around 10,000 episodes). It’s a must-have for any Trekkie, for example. It not only offers the CBS original Star Trek Discovery, but also Star Trek The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager and more. Other retro hits like The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, Twin Peaks are part of the catalog as well. To top it all off, you can also enjoy popular soap operas and reality TV shows.
Where CBS All Access falls short is movies. You will rarely find more than 30 films on the platform at any time. Streaming in 4K is not possible either, but downloading episodes for offline viewing is an option. So, while not very versatile, the streaming service’s affordability makes it quite appealing, especially if you take advantage of the 25% student discount on offer.
8. Disney Plus
Price plans: $6.99 a month, or $69.99 a year. $12.99 a month when bundled with Hulu and ESPN Plus.
If there is one company that is truly a media and entertainment behemoth, it’s Disney. We had to include Disney Plus on our list. With so many popular franchises and properties under their belt, as well as promises of future star-studded original series, its hard to pass Disney Plus up.
Disney Plus has a pretty extensive library of classic content. There’s tons of great animated and live-action films and TV shows to stream on the service. That includes the vast majority of Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars films, with more to be added in 2020. Disney Plus is also the home for what is arguably the hottest TV show of 2019: the Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian.
One of the most exciting things for Marvel fans should be the tons of original MCU which will debut on Disney Plus in 2020 and 2021. They will include Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Hawkeye, What If, Moon Night, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk. There are also a few new Star Wars shows in the works, including one centering on Obi-Wan Kenobi. There will even be a Pixar TV show, which will be a Monsters Inc spin-off. Add it all up and Disney Plus is one of the best video streaming services that’s currently available.
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9. Apple TV Plus
Price plans: $4.99 a month or free for a year if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Mac
The folks in Cupertino entered the video streaming content game in November 2019 with the launch of Apple TV Plus. Unlike most of the streaming services on this list, Apple TV Plus does not have a huge back catalog of older TV shows and movies. It only has new and original shows and movies.
As you might expect, it’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to Apple TV Plus original content. On the one hand, it has some terrific series like The Morning Show, with its huge movie star cast (Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell). It also has For All Mankind, an ambitious series about an alternate timeline where the Soviet Union was the first to land on the moon.
However, there are also some mediocre shows as well. That includes See, the post-apocalyptic series with Jason Momoa, and Servant, the creepy horror series from director M Night Shyamalan. The good news is that Apple TV Plus only costs $4.99 a month, and if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV device, you can get it for an entire year.
10. Live TV video streaming
While streaming services that utilize an on-demand approach allow you to pick exactly when and what you want to watch, there’s something great about randomly flipping through channels when you are bored. If you crave that old school approach to TV but want a modern twist, you’ll want to consider a live TV streaming service.
If you want a good mix of sports and regular programming, SlingTV offers the most bang for your buck. This live TV streaming service has three packages, each providing access to different channels. SlingTV Orange offers 22 channels, including ESPN and Disney ones but is limited to one stream at a time. Sling Blue, on the other hand, provides access to 35 channels, including Fox and NBC but also offers three simultaneous streams. However, you can still get the best of both worlds if you sign up for the $40 per month combined package, which supports four simultaneous streams.
A point in SlingTV’s favor is the ability to add extra packages, such as Comedy, which gives you access to Logo, Spike, and other channels. It’s the closest you can get to traditional cable in the form of a streaming service. Nevertheless, if you go for all the extras and the $5 per month for cloud DVR, SlingTV can get quite pricey.
Looking for live TV through the web but not sold on Sling or Hulu Live? There’s plenty of other options which we’ll talk about in an upcoming post.
What about streaming devices?
All the services above are great, but where are you going to watch them? While pretty much every option (except Apple TV) has an Android app, we highly recommend a media streaming device or a smart TV if you want to enjoy your streaming outside of your phone.