Here are the best sources for movies and TV series
Every year, more of us are ditching cable and satellite TV and relying on streaming services instead. In fact, in July 2022 streaming viewership surpassed the number of people watching cable TV for the first time ever, according to Nielsen.
One reason is the exploding number of streaming options now available. These days, research indicates that half of all U.S. households subscribe to four or more streaming services, and almost a quarter use nine or more.
The traditional big three—Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Neflix—have been joined by dozens of additional services, from Apple TV+ to Paramount+ and beyond. You can choose niche services, like BritBox, or sign up for services like YouTube TV, which offer live TV channels, just like cable TV.
There are also growing numbers of streaming services that are just plain free, which can help make all this more affordable. (CR’s strategies for saving money on streaming services can help you control your entertainment budget, as well.)
This guide to the major streaming services should help you sort through the choices. Scroll through all the listings, or jump to the category of service.
Big and Bigger (Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, etc.)
British Fare (Acorn, BritBox)
Cable-Replacement Services (Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, etc.)
Free Services (Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Tubi, etc.)
Network Services (ESPN+, Paramount+, Peacock, etc.)
Niche Services (Criterion Channel, PBS Passport)
Premium Channels (HBO Max, Showtime Now, Starz)
Consumer Reports also has advice on selecting a streaming media device. And CR members can search our TV ratings, which have test results on hundreds of models.
Newer services, such as Apple TV+ and Disney+, have now joined Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix as primary streaming choices for many people.
Price: $139 per year or $15 per month, with free shipping on Amazon Prime purchases. A video-only subscription costs $9 per month.
Prime Video delivers a large library of TV shows and movies, plus a solid roster of original shows, including a new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; “Wheel of Time,” an epic fantasy adventure starring Rosamund Pike; and “Reacher,” based on the popular Lee Child novels. Fans of epic adventures are also getting the much-hyped “Lord of the Rings” prequel series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
Amazon recently acquired MGM, bringing 4,000 films and 17,000 TV shows to Amazon Prime (and some to its free ad-supported Freevee streaming service, described lower down). It also has a deal that will bring new Universal movies to Amazon Prime Video four months after they appear on NBCUniversal’s new Peacock service. Titles include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”
In addition, the company has been bumping up its sports coverage recently. This year Amazon has been streaming 21 New York Yankees games, and is now the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football” NFL games (except for games played on Thanksgiving).
Sign up for Amazon Prime.
Price: $5 per month.
Apple TV+ is a good bet for viewers interested in Apple’s new original programming, and those who want the convenience of adding more premium channels, such as HBO Max and Showtime through the service’s app.
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 $8-per-month Disney+ service (see below). The amount of content was initially limited, but the company has been steadily adding new original content.
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,” the Academy Award-winning movie about a teenager who is the only hearing member of her family.
The service also offers original 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.
Sign up for Apple TV+.
Price: $8 per month or $80 annually.
Given its vast library of content, Disney+ is a no-brainer for families. Disney owns all the “Star Wars” movies, as well as Marvel Studios and Pixar. Its most recent acquisition is 20th Century Fox, now renamed 20th Century Studios. That brings subscribers movie franchises such as “Avatar,” “Deadpool,” and “X-Men,” and TV shows including “The Simpsons” and “Empire”—as well as National Geographic shows.
Disney will be introducing a lower-cost ad-supported version of the service later this year, at the same time it’s raising prices on other plans. Disney+ with ads will cost $8 a month, while the plan with no ads goes up $3 to $11 a month.
There will also be a bundle plan with Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, all with ads, for $13 a month. Another plan, with ad-free Disney+ and ad-free Hulu, plus ESPN+, will cost $20 a month. If you don’t care about ESPN+, a plan with just ad-supported Disney+ and Hulu costs $10 a month.
The service’s high-profile content includes “The 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. Newer shows include “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.
Sign up for Disney+.
Price: $7 per month with ads ($2 a month for students) or $13 per month without ads. Prices increase in October.
Hulu is a good option for cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast TV. But the cost of Hulu, now owned by Disney, is going up starting Oct. 10, when the ad-free premium plan will go from $13 to $15 and the ad-supported option will jump from $7 to $8 a month.
Hulu has current shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC; older ones from CBS; plus a growing roster of original programs, such as “Only Murders in the Building” and “Handmaid’s Tale.” However, Hulu has lost next-day access to current-season NBC shows, such as “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire,” as parent company NBCUniversal moves them to its own Peacock streaming service. Some NBC shows that no longer air new seasons will remain on Hulu. Earlier this year, NBCUniversal moved next-day access to Bravo shows from Hulu to Peacock.
Hulu is now the streaming home for FX shows, with exclusive rights to more than 40 original offerings. It will also be the new on-demand streaming home of “Schitt’s Creek” in the U.S., and an exclusive deal with AMC Networks is bringing “Fear the Walking Dead,” the spinoff to “The Walking Dead” to Hulu. The deal also gives Hulu exclusive rights to new and upcoming scripted programming from AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, and WeTV.
Hulu can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13 per month with ads, or $20 per month without them. You can also add several premium services. HBO Max, for example, costs $15 per month, while Showtime is $11 extra each month.
Sign up for Hulu.
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.
Netflix is still the king of binge, with a vast library of movies and TV shows, plus now-classic original shows (“Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton”) and newer ones (“Sandman,” “Squid Game,” “The Witcher”). It also has a growing library of original movies, such as “Don’t Look Up” and “Roma.” But Netflix has lost access to some Disney titles and Marvel and Pixar movies, which are now part of the Disney+ service.
Like other services, Netflix raised prices earlier this year, but the company says that later this year it will offer a lower-priced ad-supported service, though no details have been released. The news followed an earnings report where the company announced it had lost subscribers for the first time in a decade.
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.
Sign up for Netflix.
Anglophiles looking for regular doses of popular British TV shows, police procedurals, and movies now have several great options, among them Acorn and BritBox. Here’s a look at each.
Price: $6 per month or $60 per year.
Blessed with a very deep catalog of older shows such as “Agatha Christie’s Marple,” “Midsomer Murders,” and “Foyle’s War,” Acorn is now creating its own original programming with shows such as “Dalgliesh,” based on the P.D. James character; “Agatha Raisin,” about a public relations specialist turned amateur sleuth; and “Queens of Mystery,” where a perennial single detective and her three crime-writer aunts solve murders in the countryside.
Acorn also offers shows from Australia and New Zealand, as well as the complete season 15 of the popular Canadian TV series “Murdoch Mysteries.” 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.
Sign up for Acorn.
Price: $7 per month or $70 annually.
BritBox is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. Unlike Acorn, BritBox focuses exclusively on British shows.
Some of the more popular series 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.
Sign up for BritBox.
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These services look to replicate what you’d get with a traditional cable TV or satellite plan, for less money. Most include local broadcast channels and an assortment of cable stations, plus the ability to add some premium channels. All now include a cloud DVR for recording shows.
Price: $70 to $150 per month.
AT&T has been doing a lot of rejiggering lately, including spinning off its DirecTV satellite and streaming businesses 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.
This is essentially the DirecTV satellite service, minus the satellite dish. The price of several of DirecTV Stream offerings has gone up by either $5 or $10 a month (see below). 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 get $10-a-month increases, to $105 and $150, respectively. Those with grandfathered AT&T TV Now and AT&T TV plans also received the price hikes.
HBO Max, which remains a separate entity within the new Warner Bros. Discovery company, can be added to plans to that don’t include it.
You can get DirecTV Stream service using an app on streaming players and on some smart TVs, but DirecTV 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.
Price: $70 to $100 a month.
FuboTV is a cable-replacement service targeting sports fans. The base plan has about 130 channels with local stations in most markets, plus lots of sports networks (BeIn Sports, ESPN, FS1, MLB Network, NBA League Pass, NHL Network, NFL Network), and many cable channels (AMC, Bravo, FX, Syfy, USA), though not Turner channels such as CNN, TBS, TCM, or TNT, and A&E networks such as A&E, History Channel, and Lifetime.
Stepping up to the $80 Elite plan gets you Fubo Extra, with 42 more lifestyle and sports channels, plus 130 events in 4K. The Ultimate plan has even more channels, as well as Showtime and Sports Plus, which includes NFL Redzone.
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.
Sign up for FuboTV.
Hulu + Live TV
Price: $70 per month with ads and $76 per month without.
Cord-cutters who want yet another option to get what they used to receive from their traditional pay-TV package should take a look at Hulu + Live TV, which offers about 75 channels, including the major broadcast channels 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.
Hulu + Live TV now includes both Disney+ and ESPN+, though the price is now $5 higher. Also, prices for some plans are going up again in December.
A basic plan, which includes ad-supported Hulu + Live TV, Disney+ with ads, plus ESPN+, will cost $70. A plan with Hulu + Live TV with ads, plus ad-free Disney+ and ESPN+ is available only to current subscribers for $75 a month. But it will cost $83 a month to get ad-free Hulu + Live TV, ad-free Disney+, and ESPN+.
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.
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.
Sign up for Hulu + Live TV.
Price: $25 a month.
Philo can be a great option if you get local channels via an antenna. It’s a sports-free streaming service backed by several cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Paramount (CBSViacom). In addition to lacking local channels, it doesn’t offer live news (CNN, Fox News) or sports networks such as ESPN or NFL Network. But for just $25 a month, you get access to more than 60 channels from partners including Discovery, Paramount (CBS and Viacom), and AMC Networks.
In addition to the cable channels, Philo now has a few original series, including “Boss Moves,” with “Love and Hip-Hop” star Rasheeda Frost. It also recently signed a deal with Kin Community for access to that company’s female-focused lifestyle content.
You can add premium channels, such as Epix ($6 a month) and Starz ($9 a month).
Last year Philo’s price for new subscribers went from $20 to $25 per month, but those who signed up before the price hike have been able to keep 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.
Sign up for Philo.
Price: $35 to $50 a month.
You might consider Sling TV if you can find another way to get CBS and ABC local channels, because the service lacks them. The Orange package is now $35 and includes about 30 cable channels, including Disney and ESPN, plus A&E, the Food Network, and TBS, 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.
You can add premium channels, including Showtime, $10, and Starz, $9. 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 (for a bundle with several packs) extra each month.
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.
Sign up for Sling TV.
Price: $65 per month.
YouTube TV is a solid option for cord-cutters looking to save money without giving up sports or major cable channels. It offers access to more than 85 channels, including all the major broadcast networks, cable channels (AMC, Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, Turner, USA), and major sports networks such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, along with the MLB, NBA, and NFL league networks.
YouTube and ABC/Disney have ended a fight that saw the service lose access to programming from Disney, ESPN, FX, National Geographic, and local ABC stations.
HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, and a few other channels can be added for an extra fee.
In the rumor department, YouTube is reportedly interested in acquiring the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket when its contract with DirecTV expires after the 2022 season.
Sign up for YouTube TV.
A growing number of ad-supported services let you watch for free. The list below includes the major ones, and we also maintain a more comprehensive list of free video streaming services.
Previously called IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee is an ad-supported service that offers a mix of live channels, on-demand classic TV shows and movies, and some original content. You’ll find shows such as “Lost” and “Mad Men” alongside older ones such as “Bewitched” and “All in the Family.” Movies currently available include “Knives Out,” “Deadpool,” and “Gone Girl.” Licensed content rotates in and out from month to month.
Original shows include “Judy Justice,” starring Judge Judy Sheindlin; “Hollywood Houselift,” with Jeff Lewis; and “Bosch: Legacy,” a spinoff of the popular Amazon Prime series.
Sign up for Amazon Freevee.
Crackle, which used to be Sony’s ad-supported streaming service, hosts a library of mainstream titles that include popular older TV shows, such as “Barney Miller” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as well as some popular newer series, including “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Movies include everything from “Midnight Express” and “Das Boot” to somewhat more recent fare, such as “River” and “Priest.”
Crackle is now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul and is part of a bigger brand called Crackle Plus, which operates several ad-supported and subscription networks, including EspañolFlix, FrightPix, and Popcornflix, among others. The company also recently acquired Redbox (see below).
Crackle exclusives include four seasons of “Sherlock,” all five seasons of “Ripper Street,” and a documentary series called “A Life in Ten Pictures” that profiles important cultural figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and Tupac Shakur. The service is also adding a new series from the BBC library every month.
Sign up for Crackle.
Hoopla and Kanopy
If you have a library card, Hoopla and Kanopy might be your ticket to free movies, music, audiobooks, and comics. Getting started is pretty simple: Just go to the site, create an account, and find your local library. You check out TV shows and movies as though they were books, using your library card.
The main difference between the two services is that Hoopla tends to focus more on popular entertainment than Kanopy does, and it includes other types of media beyond video, such as audiobooks, comics, e-books, and music.
With either service, once you’ve signed up you can browse by title or genre, or get recommendations based on what you’ve previously borrowed and what’s popular. With Hoopla, you have 72 hours to watch a movie. (Your library sets the limit on how many movies you can borrow each month; in my case, it recently jumped from four to eight.) Your movie will start streaming once you’ve made a selection.
Sign up for Hoopla and Kanopy.
Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, has a free, ad-supported tier of service, along with two paid tiers: $5 per month with ads and $10 per month without. (See Network Services, below.) Sign up free of charge and you get access to two-thirds of the library of about 20,000 shows, movies, news, sports, and exclusive original programming. It includes current-season NBC broadcasts a week after they air, plus a mix of classic TV shows, movies, news, and sports programming from several of the parent company’s properties, including NBC, Universal Studios, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo, and Universal Kids.
With the free tier, you miss out on live sports events, some blockbuster movies, and original Peacock programming such as “Yellowstone,” “Rutherford Falls,” and “Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.”
Sign up for Peacock.
Pluto TV, owned by Paramount, has about 250 curated, thematic channels, drawing content from its own Paramount properties (BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures), plus networks such as Bloomberg, Cheddar News, CNN, NBC News, and Fox Sports. Pluto TV also has a decent library of on-demand content, mainly older movies and TV shows ranging from “Ghost in the Shell” to the original “Gunsmoke.”
In addition to genre-based channels, Pluto TV has added channels powered by other providers, including CBS (“NCIS,” “FBI”) and AMC Networks (“Breaking Bad”). Earlier this year it revamped with a focus on lifestyle content and game shows.
It also has some original series, such as “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$.”
There’s also now a Pluto TV Latino service, with 11 curated Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels covering categories including comedy, movies, music, reality TV, sports, telenovelas, and true crime.
Sign up for Pluto TV.
Best known for its rental kiosks at grocery stores and shopping centers, plus a newer video-on-demand streaming rental and purchase service, Redbox now has a free, ad-based live service as well, which gets some of its content from Xumo (see below). Thanks to the Xumo partnership, Redbox’s free service includes Magnolia Pictures’ new CineLife ad-supported channel, which features top-rated independent films and award-winning documentaries from the Magnolia Pictures catalog.
However, Redbox was recently acquired by Chicken Soup for the Soul, which also owns Crackle. The company says for now the streaming service will continue to run as a separate entity.
The Roku Channel
Thanks to a rapidly expanding roster of programming, you can watch free shows and movies via the company’s ad-supported Roku Channel, which is now available outside of just Roku streaming players and TVs.
One big focus going forward will be Roku Originals, which will roll out 50 new shows over the next few years. Roku also purchased the content from Quibi when that short-lived service went under. Current Roku Originals include “Reno 911: Defunded,” “Die Hart,” “The Newsreader,” and the holiday movie “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.” A biopic based on the life of Weird Al Yankovic, starring Daniel Radcliffe, is also in the works.
There will also be new original food series starring Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Chris Kimball, and a multiyear deal with Lionsgate gives it rights to stream Lionsgate’s theatrically released films. Roku is also teaming up with a private equity company to acquire up to a 20 percent stake in the premium channel Starz, which was acquired by Lionsgate in 2016.
Sign up for The Roku Channel.
This ad-supported service has more than 40,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., plus networks including A&E, Lifetime, and Starz. The options range from old (and probably best-forgotten) Chuck Norris films to classic indie titles (“Requiem for a Dream”) to more recent movies such as “Judy.” You’ll also find full seasons of TV shows ranging from oldies (“The Honeymooners”) to more recent fare (“The Masked Singer”).
Now owned by Fox, Tubi is ramping up its original content with 100 new film and TV titles slated over the next year. Tubi now offers streaming access to many Fox shows, such as “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back,” after they are broadcast, and it’s turning to other Fox properties, such as TMZ and animated studio Bento Box Entertainment, for new originals, such as “Classmates,” a comedy directed by Danielle Fishel, who starred in “Boy Meets World.”
Sign up for Tubi TV.
Xumo, owned by Comcast, is an ad-powered streaming video platform that offers live and on-demand content from more than 190 channels across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle, and movies.
Content on Xumo includes news programming (ABC News Live, Bloomberg, CBS News Latest Headlines, LiveNow from Fox), movies from FilmRise and Crackle, TV shows ranging from classic (“Candid Camera”) to more current (“Everybody Hates Chris”), and sports (CBS Sports HQ, Fox Sports). Movies also range from classics (“Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”) to modern classics (“In the Line of Fire”).
It also has the Black News Channel, with programming created specifically for African American audiences. A recent deal is bringing three new curated channels from Telemundo, which will include over 3,000 hours of Telemundo scripted shows, reality TV, news, sports, and more.
Sign up for Xumo.
Price: $8 a month or $84 annually as a stand-alone subscription. Some promotional pricing is available when you sign up through one of the service’s partners, such as Amazon, Apple, and Roku.
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.
Sign up for AMC+.
Price: $5 per month with ads or $7 per month without. Students can get a discounted $3-per-month rate.
Discovery+ targets those who like to watch Discovery’s assortment of channels without subscribing to a full cable-style replacement service such as Hulu + Live TV, Sling, or YouTube TV.
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.
The big news is that Discovery and WarnerMedia have closed their merger; the new entity is called WarnerBros. Discovery. Company executives have said the long-term plan will be to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single streaming entity.
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 also the home of Magnolia Network, from Chip and Joanna Gaines. Original shows include new episodes of “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home” and “Magnolia Table With Joanna Gaines,” plus workshops, shopping, and exclusive discounts with Magnolia Perks.
Sign up for Discovery+.
Price: $10 per month, or $100 per year for the basic service.
ESPN+ is best for hard-core 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.
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.
The bad news is that Disney again hiked the price of ESPN+, up $3 from $7 to $10 a month, or $100 a year. There will also be a bundle plan with Disney+, Hulu with ads, and ESPN+, all with ads, for $15 a month. Another plan, with ad-free Disney+ and ad-free Hulu, plus ESPN+, will cost $20 a month.
Sign up for ESPN+.
Price: $5 per month or $50 annually with ads, or $10 per month or $100 annually ad-free.
Paramount+ is the replacement for CBS All Access, and provides full-length episodes of CBS programs and new original programming, plus livestreams of local CBS affiliates in many markets.
Parent company Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) 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 CBS and Viacom 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.
Paramount+ original content includes “1883,” the prequel to its popular “Yellowstone” series (which, thanks to an oddity of licensing deals, is on Peacock), and shows such as “Seal Team,” “The Good Fight,” “The Mayor of Kingstown,” and “Evil,” some of which used to be on CBS. 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.
New blockbuster movies that will hit the service after they appear in theaters include “Mission: Impossible 7” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”
Sign up for Paramount+.
Price: Free, or $5 per month with ads, $10 without.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock lets you access NBC shows and Universal movies, as well as licensed content, original programming, and live sports events.
The service has free and paid tiers. (Budget-minded streamers should see the Peacock listing under Free Services, above.) All include current-season NBC broadcasts, plus a mix of offerings from NBC, Universal Studios, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo, and Universal Kids. The service also licenses shows from other networks, including A&E, ABC, and Fox, as well as Paramount. There are deals in place for movies from Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, Warner Bros., and Blumhouse.
The Peacock Premium paid tier gets you exclusive next-day access to current NBC and Bravo shows, now that those deals with Hulu have expired. You also get access to original series, including “The Resort,” “Love Island,” and “Yellowstone.” A deal with Universal will see that company’s new movies, including “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” stream exclusively on Peacock for 45 days after leaving theaters. Other new movies include the religious comedy “Honk for Jesus: Save Your Soul” and “They/Them,” a horror thriller about campers at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp.
A multiyear deal with Lionsgate’s will bring all its theatrically released films (including “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” starring Nicholas Cage, and “John Wick: Chapter 4”) to Peacock starting in 2024.
For sports fans, Peacock will stream Premier League soccer games, golf tournaments, and WWE Network matches. It also recently signed an extension with the NFL to show Sunday night NFL games that air on NBC through 2033.
Sign up for Peacock.
The Criterion Channel
Price: $11 per month or $100 for an annual subscription.
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.
Among the titles recently added to the Criterion Channel are the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night”; the Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple”; “Yentl,” Barbra Streisand’s directorial debut; and “The Jackie Robinson Story,” with the baseball star playing himself.
Sign up for the Criterion Channel.
Price: At least $5 a month, or $60 a year.
While a free version of PBS is also available, PBS Passport unlocks additional programming that’s no longer available for streaming to non-members. The PBS Passport library features episodes from popular programs, including American Experience, American Masters, Antiques Roadshow, Nature, NOVA, and Masterpiece shows such as “Annika,” “All Creatures Great and Small,” “Downton Abbey,” “Grantchester,” and “Sanditon.”
On the PBS streaming service, episodes that are only available for viewing by Passport members sport a blue “compass rose” Passport icon in the upper left-hand corner of the program.
Sign up for PBS Passport.
Price: $15 per month or $150 annually; $10 per month with ads or $100 annually.
HBO Max offers everything you used to get with HBO, plus a lot more content from WarnerMedia properties, for the same monthly price. Like its predecessor, HBO Max costs $15 a month, but it’s including with some top-tier DirecTV and DirecTV plans.
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 Warner’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 above).
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 “Euphoria.” Perhaps the biggest content news is that the “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon,” is now streaming on the service. A second season has already been approved.
For those on a budget, there’s now also 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, such as last year’s blockbusters “Dune” and “The Matrix 4.” It also doesn’t offer movies in 4K, and you can’t download movies for offline viewing.
As we noted earlier, WarnerBros. Discovery executives plan to combine HBO Max and Discovery+, plus new programming that was developed for the now-defunct CNN+ streaming service, into a single streaming entity.
Sign up for HBO Max.
Price: $11 per month.
Like HBO Max, this service lets you watch a cable network without the cable. You get all of Showtime’s movies, plus original shows such as “American Gigolo,” “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.
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; the documentary “Cusp,” about three teenage girls finding their way in the world during the waning days of a Texas summer; and “Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” a docu-series about today’s political quagmire.
Sign up for Showtime Now.
Price: $9 per month.
Like HBO and Showtime, you can now get Starz without a pay-TV subscription. Content includes shows (“Spanish Princess,” “Outlander,” “Power”) and movies (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”). It also had the streaming debut of the “Venom” sequel, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”
Starz ended its agreement with Sony Pictures, but a deal with Lionsgate brings movies like “John Wick” and “Knives Out” to the service. It also launched a new season of “Outlander.”
Starz also has a number of original TV shows, including “The Serpent Queen,” “Gaslight,” and “Becoming Elizabeth.” Newer originals include “Hightown,” about a Cape Cod woman struggling with sobriety, and “Who is Ghislaine Maxwell,” about Jeffrey Epstein’s cohort.
Roku recently announced that it was partnering with a venture capital firm to acquire up to 20 percent of Starz.
Sign up for Starz.
James K. Willcox
I’ve been a tech journalist for more years than I’m willing to admit. My specialties at CR are TVs, streaming media, audio, and TV and broadband services. In my spare time I build and play guitars and bass, ride motorcycles, and like to sail—hobbies I’ve not yet figured out how to safely combine.
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Here are the best sources for movies and TV series